By Tirthankar Mitra
Pep talk and tall talk are separated by a wide gulf. Unofficial number two in Trinamool Congress hierarchy Abhishek Banerjee’s recent claim of his party bagging 40 out of 42 seats from West Bengal in next year’s Lok Sabha elections will be taken as pep talk by many among his party faithful; the Opposition leaders cutting across ideological divide will be dismissing it as tall talk.
After Trinamool’s expansion plans were grounded in the Assembly polls of the North Eastern states months ago, nearer home given the present state of existing organisational muscle of TMC, the ruling dispensation of West Bengal will have to struggle hard next year to retain the turf which 23 of its nominees now represent in Lok Sabha. A subtle mix of political fortune and organisational skills is the only route to increase it’s tally of seats.
Political fortune is fickle. As for organisational strength, let the ground realities be considered. Banerjee is on a two month long tour of the state on his ‘Jan Sanjog Yatra.’ It’s twin objectives are to rejuvenate party organisation and get the names of prospective candidates for the panchayat election according to secret ballots cast by the people.
Banerjee’s critics indicate that the journey on board an air conditioned caravan is actually an attempt to upgrade his own image. After all, the Diamond Harbour MP’s charisma and connect with the people trail far behind his illustrious aunt, party supremo and chief minister, Mamata Banerjee.
Choosing the panchayat nominees by going by the people’s choice is a unique method which is Abhishek Banerjee’s brain child. It seeks to replace the much criticised mode of candidates’ selection by a coterie of leaders in the backdrop of intrigue by backroom boys seeking to pass themselves off as “organisation men.” Unpleasant surprises were in store for Banerjee who chose himself to be the new broom poised to sweep clean. His intent was to make a clear break with the past.
But the results were not pleasant. Ballot boxes were looted before Banerjee’s eyes at Coochbehar in north Bengal and in Murshidabad even as Trinamool leader has vast swathes of the state to cover. Seeing her nephew and political heir apparent all at sea, chief minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee had to take the field herself embarking on a journey of the area where Abhishek was camping.
There were other acts of indiscipline which met Banerjee’s eyes. He has taken stock of the situation and come to a belated realisation that pep talk is the only way to rejig the party rank and file hence mouthing the 40 seat claim.
The men who were behind the vandalisation of the ballot boxes have not yet been accused of being from the ranks of the Opposition outfits. It boils down to the conclusion that these “political vandals” represent vested interests in the ruling dispensation.
The system of using ballot for choosing nominees for the rural polls is not at all a good idea to them. Hence they have screwed up the courage to indulge in indiscipline despite the presence of Banerjee at the spot and the fallout of his reporting back to his aunt and party supremo have not dimmed the vandals’ zeal.
The popularity of the ruling dispensation of West Bengal cannot be stated to be high now with former education minister and party secretary general Partha Chatterjee and the party’s Birbhum strongman Anubrata Mondal being behind the bars. The charges against the duo range from cash for teaching jobs, cattle smuggling and money laundering.
The state government has its back to the wall on the issue of paying enhanced dearness allowance to its employees. Successive court orders in favour of the employees have made matters worse for the state government.
In sum, it is certainly not the Trinamool organisation sans flab, individual interest and sloth likely to fetch 40 seats in next year’s Lok Sabha polls. Trinamool Congress is a house divided though individual interests are too small to be identified quickly before the rural polls.
It seems that Trinamool’s best chances of electoral success lies in Opposition disunity. Banerjee’s target of 40 seats will not be quite off the mark if differences arising in Congress and BJP camps in the state are anything to go by.
Sagardighi by-poll in Murshidabad in which a Left supported Congress nominee emerged victorious with tacit prop up from BJP witnessed sinking of differences. Difficulty in replicating this formula statewide can give TMC an escape route to victory given the broadening of electoral frontline for the Lok Sabha polls next year.
The fallout of the attendance of a raft of Opposition leaders at a rally near Banerjee’s residence by state government employees demanding dearness allowance on par with central government employees is a case in point to substantiate Opposition disunity. Already the state Congress leadership is abuzz at some of its senior leaders sharing the podium with Nandigram BJP legislator and leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari.
The Congress leaders included former leader of the Opposition Abdul Mannan, veteran leader Asit Mitra and Koustav Bagchi, Calcutta High Court lawyer who was recently arrested and released on bail after a night in custody. Their sharing the podium of demand for enhanced dearness allowance with Adhikari is reported to have rubbed PCC chief Adhir Chowdhury the wrong way.
The Congress is already a declining political force in Bengal. The CPI(M), despite all its efforts for turnaround, has not been able to make any breakthrough. New young leaders have emerged but the Trinamool supremo has hijacked the pro-people agenda of the Left and also the Trinamool is most vocal against the BJP led communalism. So the CPI(M) is in a dilemma. The cadres at local level want an understanding with the BJP to take on Trinamool in the elections but that is contrary to the CPI(M)’s political line.
BJP leadership is fractured and the fight between the new entrants and old RSS loyalists is continuing. The BJP at the lower level is trying to make an informal front with the CPI(M) and the Congress. The BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari is encouraging it but this is not liked by the RSS faction led by the president Sukanata Majumdar and Dilip Ghosh. There is little possibility of any anti-TMC front emerging.
That is the trump card for Trinamool Congress before the 2024 Lok sabha elections. Abhishek’s claim of 40 seats out of 42 in next Lok Sabha, is based on that. Apart they have their CM Mamata Banerjee, who is most popular in the state, despite the misdeeds of her party men. The rural poor, women and unorganized workers see in her a real messiah. Bu before that, the TMC as also other three opposition parties have to cross the hurdle of the coming panchayat elections. (IPA Service)