The TMC congressional bickering, now out in the open, is likely to hurt opposition unity

Kolkata: The Prime Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee wrote a piece for the Durga Puja edition of jago bangla, the mouthpiece of the Trinamool Congress (TMC). In the piece, she summed up her achievements as a railway minister and came out heavily against the Congress party.

Interestingly enough, the piece was titled ‘Delhi r Daak’ (Delhi Calling). Targeting the “big old party,” Banerjee said, “[The] The Congress failed to include the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the national stage and that is the reality.”

Banerjee further wrote: “There is a terrifying vacuum in Delhi’s political space as the Union government implements anti-popular policies and destroys the country’s democratic structures. At the moment, the country wants to postpone these obstacles. Several states send messages. The whole country has witnessed how Trinamool defeated an aggressive BJP. Outside the borders of Bengal, people are calling us. They want Bengalis to drive the BJP out of the center and build a new India. That is why we say, we must heed the call of people, we will have to fulfill the wishes. We must take responsibility for nation building.”

Speaking at a press conference related to the Lakhimpur Kheri incident in Delhi, former Congress Speaker Rahul Gandhi said on Wednesday, “All parties were not stopped from visiting Lakhimpur Kheri. Two parties, TMC and Bhim Army, arrived there on Tuesday.”

The TMC retaliated, calling Gandhi a “part-time politician”.

Kunal Ghosh, general secretary and spokesperson for TMC, responded to Gandhi’s statement through two tweets, describing TMC’s struggle to come to Lakhimpur Kheri and record the congress’s recent political failures, both in UP in the Lok Sabha elections. and more recently in Punjab.

Three months ago, TMC supremo Banerjee visited the national capital for the first time since her landslide victory in the West Bengal assembly elections. During the five-day visit, she met top leaders of the opposition parties, including interim congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi and senior leader Rahul Gandhi.

Mamata Banerjee met senior congress leaders Rahul and Sonia Gandhi at their Delhi residence in July. Photo: PTI.

Many political analysts thought she was setting herself up as a prime minister’s candidate for the 2024 parliamentary elections. However, she categorically ruled out such ambitions.

“I have a lovely home in Kolkata and want to stay there. I don’t want to be a leader, but a cadres. I am not a VIP but a LIP (Less Important Person). There must be a platform from which we can work together. After Parliament’s session, we must sit down together and determine the opposition’s strategy. In politics, there are times when everyone needs to bury their differences and come together for the good of the country. This is that time,” Banerjee said while talking to journalists in Delhi.

So what has changed in three months?

On September 6, Abhishek Banerjee, the newly appointed National General Secretary and Member of Parliament of the TMC, was summoned to Delhi by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with a money laundering case related to an alleged coal smuggling scam in Bengal.

After eight hours of consecutive interrogations, Abhishek Banerjee fell heavily against BJP while speaking to the media. The most significant byte resulting from this was: “If they [the BJP] think TMC will accept defeat like Congress and other parties, they are wrong. We will fight more vigorously. We’re going to every state where they’ve killed democracy.”

Since then, the TMC has continuously stepped up their attack on Congress. The latest development came in the form of Mamata’s “scary vacuum” comment in her jago bangla article, cited above.

Most recently, Mamata wrote: “In the recent past, Congress has failed to deal with Delhi at the national level. Two Lok Sabha results are the proof. I am not concerned about the leadership of the alternative force. But Congress should realize the basic reality. Country witnessed how TMC beat BJP in West Bengal. This has created history. This is a model. People put their faith in this model. The people of the country are now dreaming of a new India around TMC.”

If according to her Lok Sabha and election results are the measure of political success, then in 2019 the TMC had also lost a significant number of seats to the BJP, dropping their number from 34 to 22.

Taking the parliamentary elections into account, Congress defeated the BJP in Punjab, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh; there is no need to clarify what happened in the last two states after the elections. In addition, the ‘great old party’ is part of the ruling coalition in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand.

Speak with The wireMaidul Islam, professor of political science at the Center for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata, said: “Mamata writing and speaking publicly against Congress should be understood in a political context. When Mamata went to Delhi to meet political leaders she polled the political mood. Now her party has rolled out a strategy to effectively project her as the face of the opposition. Also in 2019 we see conflicts of interest within the regional parties. Mamata, Pawar and other regional parties try to drive the opposition front in Most likely, these leaders are looking for a 1996-like situation where Congress supported the government from the outside.”

“The current Congress is even weaker than Congress in 1989, 1996, and 2004. So the regional parties are trying their best to dominate instead of Congress. It is unfortunate to see the opposition so fractured just before the crucial assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, when farmers protest, when anti-incumbency runs high,” Islam continued.

A senior Congress leader said political strategist Prashant Kishor, when he met with the Gandhis in July, discussed strategies to create a united national alliance against the BJP for the next Lok Sabha elections. The source confirmed that Kishor suggested that the Congress party’s central leadership would hold elections only in seats where there is “direct flight between Congress and the BJP”, leaving the rest to various regional parties in their respective states.

Kishor previously clarified to several media outlets that he does not believe in a “third or fourth front” as it will not work in the current political landscape and will fail to challenge the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

When asked for answers to certain questions, Kishore noted, “I have no comment on speculation and source-based stories.” However, in a tweet on Friday, he said: “People looking for a quick, spontaneous revival of GOP-led opposition based on the Lakhimpur Kheri incident are getting ready for a major disappointment. Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes for the deep-seated problems and structural weakness of GOP.” The statement suggests, in a way, that he likely moved away from the Congressional schedule.

Another political analyst from Bengal, Biswanath Chakraborty, said, “Maybe TMC is trying to take over the Congress. In the near future, key congressional leaders at the national level are likely to join the TMC. Prashant Kishor directs TMC’s strategy. This type of takeover can go both ways; either it will propel the TMC as a main challenger to Modi in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections or divide the votes of the opposition and secure Modi’s third victory.” His statement hinted that Congress will be crucial for any anti-BJP party. coalition at the national level.

The TMC has already lured several top conference leaders. Rahul Gandhi’s close aide, Sushmita Dev, All India Mahila Congress President and a former Assam’s Silchar MP, joined the TMC and became a Rajya Sabha member; veteran Congress leader and former Prime Minister of Goa, Luizinho Faleiro, joined the TMC on September 29; Seven congress leaders from Tripura, including former minister Prakash Chandra Das and former congressional MLA Subal Bhowmik, joined the TMC a month ago.

The wire has learned that in the coming days, more congressional leaders from other states and some high-ranking but disaffected party leaders now known as “G-23” may also join hands with Banerjee.

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