16 June, 2021

Captain Quirk’s Dilemma

Congress honchos have found Ghani Khan irascible, but they see him as a necessary evil now

Captain Quirk’s Dilemma

Low on charisma, short of temper and brimming with idiosyncrasies, Ataul Barkat Ataul Ghani Khan Choudhury’s beetle-browed, glowering presence has been integral to West Bengal politics for four decades.

Unpredictable, arrogant, hard-of-hearing and arthritic, the 73-year-old barrister is still the only mass leader the Congress can boast of in West Bengal. The party may look perilously close to its last gasp but ‘Barkatda’ remains a significant political force. And now, his proposed alliance with the Trinamul Congress threatens to change the face of West Bengal politics.

"Our heroes like Indira Gandhi have disappeared from the political scene. The Congress has become weak," Barkatda lamented after his meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi last week. On the previous day, he’d told her she hadn’t a prayer of reviving the party and ousting the Left Front in West Bengal without Mamata Banerjee. Sonia, who counts the Left as one of her few friends outside the Congress, was, however, reluctant to accept the idea of taking on the Left in...

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