In Bengal, weak opposition and violence prop up Mamata's Trinamool

  • Debjyoti Chakraborty and Sayandeb Bandyopadhyay, Hindustan Times, Kolkata
  • Updated: May 01, 2015 15:24 IST

Out-of-grace Trinamool Congress leader Mukul Roy, the rise and sudden stagnation of the BJP, the renewed vigour— critics call it violence—and the TMC’s crushing victory in the civic polls mark the politics in Bengal subsequent to the Saradha scam and Burdwan blasts.

While the Mamata Banerjee juggernaut is showing no signs of slowing down, the challenger from the north seems to have lost steam. For now, at least.

Even Roy, on whom the opposition banked heavily, albeit obliquely, to get Banerjee and her team sullied in the scam, is keeping his cards close to his chest. Though Banerjee was quite peeved with Roy for opening up to the CBI on the scam, he’s not conceding any ground to anybody.

He is still in the TMC, but the BJP’s strategy to use him as a pressure group inside the ruling party to keep Banerjee on the edge and force her to make mistakes didn’t work.

Though BJP leader Tathagata Roy told HT, “We’re not interested in (Mukul) Roy. We won’t touch anybody with a taint,” nobody has yet proved the former railway minister’s taint in the Saradha case. “Let him come out clean. Then, our central leadership will take a call on him, if he is interested.”

Mukul Roy, on the other hand, has never given any hint on his future plans. “I am a loyal soldier of the TMC,” is his routine defence.

With Roy out of the scene for now, the BJP in Bengal is facing several hurdles. The toughest among them is the party’s membership drive to become the largest political outfit in the world .

Its “dial ‘M’ for a membership” strategy worked everywhere, but not in Bengal. People who couldn’t make it big in the TMC, Congress and even CPI (M) have populated its ranks.

Tathagata Roy said, “Ours was always a small party in Bengal. We were not ready to handle such a large number of people.” And with the assembly elections only about a year away, there is no sign of the party getting tough with the non-believer and rewarding the believer.

A BJP old-timer said the Bengal leadership had – wilfully or inadvertently – sidelined those who fought the TMC to establish the party here.

The only hope that the BJP supporter is putting his money on is former actor and social activist Rupa Ganguly. So far, Ganguly has managed to create quite a stir in party circles.

Interestingly, the CPI(M) is slowly turning things around. The party’s local committees are being revived, secretly in some areas of the state.

As the faces associated with Singur and Nandigram disasters – former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and former industry minister Nirupam Sen – are out of the way, the party is trying to project new ones. The ascent of Sitaram Yechury as its general secretary may also win some brownie points.

Samir Putatunda, once a rising Left star who left the outfit along with then CPI(M) parliamentarian Saifuddin Choudhury to form the Party of Democratic Socialism in 2001, said the Left party had no other option but to bring in fresh faces.

The Congress has virtually become a non-player, clinging onto a few traditional pockets. A popular joke in Bengal’s political circles is that the Congress has become the Murshidabad Pradesh Congress Committee. Bengal state chief Adhir Chowdhury is from that district.

But the TMC is no longer a happy family. In fact, after the initial euphoria was over following the 2011 assembly polls, its local leaders resumed the fight for power – this time for themselves. The first phase of the struggle ended with Mukul Roy emerging as the clear number two and the veterans from the Congress and old associates of Banerjee had to keep mum.

Now, the TMC party organisation, which has always been a loose structure, is crumbling imperceptibly. Banerjee has formed an informal committee of seniors whose only job is to face the media and defend the indefensible – sometimes cutting a sorry figure.

Banerjee, instead, is interacting directly with the local field commanders, who control large armies of foot soldiers. Since the TMC is not run tightly enough to sustain such a system, gaps are found very often between the supremo and the local commanders. Violence is occasionally unleashed unnecessarily.

Sometimes, situations go out of control because there’s no regulatory mechanism. Violence over turf is slowly eating away the victor, too. Even when her commanders are fighting each other for a piece of juicy turf, no one is sure who will finally get Didi’s blessings.

And for Didi’s blessings, a comfortable fight for a sure win in the municipal polls turned bloody. Mamata doesn’t want anyone else to get a toehold in her turf.

Read: Bengal: Retro ‘Peto bombs’ make a comeback in civic polls

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