While the Trinamool chief picked carrot over stick to deal with dissenters in the ruling camp, her army of intellectuals appears set to be shoved to the sidelines as she attempts to lift the party out of the perceived rut in the face of an opposition onslaught and trouble within.
Sources said that while assigning more responsibility to rebels is clearly the ploy to quell a rising tide of dissent and unrest in Trinamool ranks, Mamata Banerjee has also planned to keep her intellectual brigade at an arm’s length going forward.
And, in what appears to be a step in that direction, the chief minister has decided not to give a ride to anyone from the intellectual brigade in her official vehicle or allow aides from the civil society to flank her on the way in and out of secretariat Nabanna, as had been her wont until recently, a top member of the Mamata cabinet told HT.
“The chief minister has also planned to curtail the powers of some of these intellectuals whom she had drafted in key positions across state departments. This would certainly be welcome news for some cabinet members and top bureaucrats who have been on record citing excessive interference from them. The chief minister had been made aware of misgivings voiced by a sizeable section of the cabinet and bureaucracy in this regard and she has assured measures to address their grievances,” the cabinet member said.
Sources said the Trinamool chief has also been briefed on the largely negative feedback to her frequent public appearances with intellectuals, both at party and government dos, from a sizeable section of the state party leadership. Those who have been with Trinamool since inception and cradled the party through its nascent days are reportedly sore over recent instances of intellectuals rubbing shoulders with the chief minister at public events.
“It can’t be denied that all top intellectuals and people from the city’s cultural fraternity who are perceived to be close to the chief minister and are often seen with her at public and party functions, only linked up with her and Trinamool after victory in the last assembly elections. They weren’t around when we were in opposition. A good many of them had pro-CPI(M) leanings during the Left Front days. Hence, their growing closeness to our party chief hasn’t gone down too well, especially with old-timers, who steered the party through the rough and rocky phases. She has been made aware of this sentiment and we hope the matter would be addressed soon,” the cabinet member said.
“There have been complaints of excessive interference from intellectuals in the functioning of key state departments. However, what has riled a section of bureaucrats and cabinet members the most is that every time they conceive and commission a new programme these intellectuals insist on hiring firms or agencies run by event managers close to them,” a senior state official told HT.