The removal of Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, a fierce critic of Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee, from the post of president of West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee (WBPCC) on Friday has led to speculation that he is going to join the BJP sooner or later. Sources close to Chowdhury and in Bengal BJP have also hinted that he could make his way into the saffron party which is developing into the state’s principal opposition party over the last few years.

Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, a source close to Chowdhury said, “The removal has come as a shock to many party leaders. AdhirDa was one of the main faces of Congress in Bengal and his removal would be detrimental for the party, which is struggling to revive itself in the state.”

“If he is not given the needed respect in the party and if the party high command (Rahul Gandhi) feels that he is no longer needed for the Congress in Bengal, there are other places where he is much needed. His long experience in politics will help any political party in Bengal,” he added.

When asked if he could join the BJP, the source said, “All options are open, and the BJP is growing as one of the main alternatives in Bengal and is capable of taking on the autocratic Mamata government. He will go wherever he gets respect.”

Replaced by one of his predecessors Somen Mitra, Chowdhury has now been made party’s campaign committee chief in the state. The announcements came through a statement released to the media by the party headquarters in Delhi.

The change of guard ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections hints at the fact that the high command wants to go for an alliance with the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress, and this would not have been possible with Chowdhury at the helm. The new WBPCC president will soon appoint his team for the Lok Sabha elections, for which the preparations are going to start.

A senior Congress leader from Bengal told this newspaper on the condition of anonymity that Chowdhury was removed since he and his team were constantly opposing the idea of an alliance with the TMC. “The high command is looking for an alliance with the TMC for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. But Adhir during his meeting with Rahul Gandhi some two months ago had made it clear that something like that would not be possible in Bengal. This was one of the primary reasons for his removal,” he explained.

WBPCC general secretary Om Prakash Mishra, who is believed to be close to Chowdhury, had even written a letter and submitted a detailed report to Gandhi earlier this year, suggesting that an alliance with CPM should be forged, rather than TMC in the state.

Some other Congress leaders also confirmed that Mitra was closer to the Banerjee-led dispensation and would work towards making this alliance a success. Somen Mitra, who was originally with the Congress, had a stint with TMC, before returning to the Congress a few years ago. Long ago, when both Mitra and Mamata Banerjee were in Congress, they were considered rivals.

The Bengal BJP did not deny that there could be a possibility of Chowdhury being absorbed into the party before the 2019 elections. “We are open to anybody who is willing to join us and make the party stronger in Bengal. There also been many meetings and discussions between AdhirDa and senior BJP leaders both at the state and at the national levels. A decision on this could be taken before the 2019 elections,” a senior BJP leader said.

He said that Chowdhury would become an asset for the party given the hold he has on the Murshidabad belt of Bengal. He also hinted that Chowdhury could be given the BJP ticket from that parliamentary constituency.