Dissent among a section of Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders over the growing clout of Abhishek Banerjee, chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and heir apparent, coupled with organizational changes made at the advice of election strategist Prashant Kishor is helping the the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the opposition party’s leaders feel.
Some ruling party leaders share this view as well.
Abhishek Banerjee has become the focal point of the BJP’s attack on the TMC in recent weeks after a number of leaders, starting from heavyweight former minister Suvendu Adhikari to senior legislator Mihir Goswami, have rebelled over decisions taken by him and Kishor.It is an open secret in the TMC that Banerjee and Kishor work in close coordination with each other and many instructions are often passed on to district leaders by executives of I-Pac, Kishor’s company, and not senior leaders.
Talking to HT on condition of anonymity, a senior TMC state committee member said that at an important virtual meeting with district and state leaders Mamata Banerjee on Friday afternoon gave clear instructions that those raising their voice against the party should be removed from their posts.
“The chief minister said this while addressing Sisir Adhikari, the father of Suvendu Adhikari. She also said those who are afraid of facing the BJP in the coming election may leave the TMC. She said she will not hold any grudge against them. Significantly, she also mentioned emphatically that there is no need to feel scared as the next generation of leadership is ready. There was a clear message in this,” the TMC leader said.
Sisir Adhikari is the Lok Sabha member from Kanthi and president of the party’s East Midnapore district unit. Mamata Banerjee will address a mammoth rally in Midnapore on December7. Suvendu Adhikari, who has told the leadership that he cannot work with the TMC, will announce his next move on December 6. There are speculations that he may quit the TMC.
“Many TMC leaders joined the BJP in recent years. But senior people such as Mukul Roy and former Kolkata mayor Sovon Chatterjee left us because of their differences with Abhishek Banerjee. Suvendu has the same issue,” said a senior TMC leader who did not want to be named.
The BJP’s assaults on Abhishek Banerjee are not restricted to calling him bhaipo (nephew) or khokababu (kid) in public. The saffron camp wants to corner him politically as well. BJP national president J P Nadda will be holding an organisational meeting with BJP leaders from South 24 Parganas during a visit on December 8. The meeting will be held at Diamond Harbour, Abhishek Banerjee’s Lok Sabha constituency. Nadda will hold a second meeting in Kolkata on December 9.
“What is happening in the TMC is a mirror image of what the Indian National Congress is going through. The Gandhi family is desperate to make Rahul Gandhi the head of the party although he lacks mission and vision. In Bengal, Abhishek Banerjee, who never led any mass movement or contributed to the TMC’s growth in its formative years, has been made the party’s second face,” said Jay Prakash Majumdar, vice-president of the BJP’s Bengal unit.
“In the districts, people worked for years to build the TMC’s organization because they were inspired by Mamata Banerjee’s struggle as an opposition leader. Many of these leaders are now being replaced by young people who owe their allegiance to Abhishek. The chief minister cannot force her old and sincere leaders to like and follow Abhishek. Only the opportunists will do that. The BJP is reaping the fruits of the TMC’s corruption and the government’s failures. Abhishek is an added bonus,” Majumdar added.
While Mihir Goswami, the lawmaker from Cooch Behar South assembly seat in north Bengal, joined the BJP on November 27, Suvendu Adhikari, who headed three important departments, quit the cabinet the same day.
A third lawmaker, Silbhadra Dutta from the Barrackpore seat in North 24 Parganas, has declared that he will not contest the assembly polls. “I don’t believe that political decisions can be taken by a hired commercial agency. The agency cannot lecture me on politics. I feel obsolete in the present situation,” Dutta had said on November 1, referring to I-Pac.