NEW DELHI: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi may skip the joint rally with the Left Front called to launch the West Bengal election campaign in Kolkata this weekend, a development that may be interpreted as revolving around the need to balance contradictory situations in a raft of poll-bound states.
Sources said the party has nominated Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel as its representative for the joint rally at the Brigade Road ground on Sunday. Rahul is said to be touring Tamil Nadu from February 27 to March 1.
However, a last-minute change is not being ruled out. If Rahul is not on the Kolkata stage while the Left is represented by CPM chief Sitaram Yechury, the optics would be up for multiple interpretations with strands as diverse as Bengal and Kerala. Observers are likely to see it as an attempt by the Congress leader to avoid being seen in a public political embrace with the Left when the two parties are vying for power in Kerala.
Rahul, now an MP from the southern state, is likely to lead the party campaign there and a joint rally in Bengal would undercut his offensive against CPM in Kerala, many believe. While Congress may have avoided such concerns in normal circumstances where power changes hands every five years in Kerala, the situation appears to be different this time as the contest is said to be close.
At the same time, Congress has been under pressure nationally from like-minded parties to avoid going all out against CM Mamata Banerjee, who is faced with a tough challenge from a resurgent BJP. Congress, as the national leader of the anti-BJP axis, can be amenable to such persuasion.
As a compromise, the party may leave it to its state leadership to carry out the offensive against the TMC. The two-fold dilemma was on display very early in the poll season, though. Even the announcement of the Congress-Left alliance for Bengal polls on December 25 came in a low-key manner.