By Tirthankar Mitra
Trinamool Congress has found itself in a political whirlpool ever since the cash for teaching jobs case unfolded in West Bengal leading to several senior Trinamool Congress ministers and leaders marking time behind the bars and CBI and ED grilling some others. As the cup of woes of the ruling dispensation of West Bengal was spilling over, its de facto number two Abhishek Banerjee rocked the boat voicing the need for a cut off age for some veterans to call it quits.
At the moment, 10 out of 23 of TMC’s Lok Sabha MPs are aged over 65 years. Five of them are 75 years or above. Small wonder, many seniors are feeling the heat as the controversy over upper age limit of contestants swirls through the party ranks. It needs to be mentioned that the principal vote catcher of the TMC, the charismatic supremo Mamata Banerjee is 68.
A tussle between the old guard and young guns is a common feature in all political outfits within the realm of electoral politics.. The TMC is no exception. The controversy can be traced to a party rally at Netaji Indoor Stadium addressed by chief minister where, a picture of Abhishek Banerjee was not placed besides that of his aunt. If the absence of Abhishek’s picture not being in the place where it should have been, the age limit issue was triggered off by a party spokesman, loyal to Abhishek. .
But the matter took a more serious turn when Abhishek said that like in all fields, politics too should have an age limit. Even as rank and file started taking sides, discussion among sitting MPs and MLAs went on an overdrive whether they will be denied renomination owing to their age crossing the upper limit which is unknown till date.
Many of these leaders like Sudip Bandopadhyay, chief of Trinamool Congress in Lok Sabha have been with Mamata Banerjee since the party’s inception. When the party supremo’s nephew, Abhishek voiced the need of the veterans to call it a day, it sent a shock wave through the party.
Abhishek’s wish to infuse new blood seemed to be at variance with the wishes of the party supremo herself. Of late at a meeting organised at Netaji Indoor Stadium she called upon the rank and file to give respect to the seniors. The chief minister made a specific reference to senior MP from Dum Dum, Sougata Roy who sometimes says that he is ageing. Perish the thought, she told Roy who was sharing the podium.
It was learnt from TMC sources that senior leaders like Roy and Bandopadhyay have placed their trust on the party supremo. On the other hand, the younger brigade for obvious reasons is looking upto Abhishek.
The Opposition in West Bengal, though it shares space with Trinamool in anti-BJP INDIA bloc, is looking for fissures to turn into cracks in the ruling dispensation of the state. If the fissures are yet not discernible, the difference of opinion among the Trinamool leadership is for all who cares to.
Underscoring the need for both youth and experience, Kolkata mayor and state urban development minister, Firad (Bobby) Hakim known to be close to the party supremo, said that unlike a councillor a MP does not need to go around a ward looking for a leaking waterline or a choked drain. The party’s representative in the Parliament has to concentrate on national issues and his experience is helpful in this task, he added. Hakim even referred to Roy as a role model. We learn from Sougata Roy how to nurse a constituency, he added.
Walking a different path, Kamarhati legislator and former transport minister, Madan Mitra drew analogies from cricket to drive in his point. Sunil Gavaskar retired to make way for Sachin Tendulkar who made space for Dhoni, he said. Mitra suggested that seniors should find place in advisory committee. In so many words, they should be away from the hurly burly of electoral politics and thus Mitra echoed Abhishek’s views.
The seniors should give up their positions voluntarily, deputy leader, Trinamool Legislature Party, Tapas Roy said. It seems Abhishek brigade is growing though his aunt Mamata has the final word in all party matters.
The fact remains Abhishek who was first elected an MP from Diamond Harbour in 2014 is not quite comfortable with leaders whose age and experience far exceed his own. With a desire to build his own team at the back of his mind and his choices for Cabinet berths after TMC’s victory in 2021 elections and the civic polls, he is set to induct younger persons who can work like him, in official positions
Unlike the BJP, the TMC has no cut off age to leave active politics, Sougata Roy who is in the eye of the storm said. The BJP has an upper age limit of 75 years. Even as the tussle between youth and experience continues, all eyes in TMC are on Mamata Banerjee. The veterans are banking on her silence which they interpret to be her reluctance about the old making way for the young.
There is also a feeling in the inner circle of the party that Abhishek is showing intentions of jumping the gun. Once earlier he had been pulled up for it by the party supremo. As the Lok Sabha elections are inching closer, the leaders seeking renomination are keeping their fingers crossed. Some of the young guns are hopeful of getting their maiden opportunity to represent the party they belong to. (IPA Service)