It is not known whether chief minister Mamata Banerjee is a skillful chess player, but over the past few weeks, she has been making deft pre-election moves.
In September last year, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) heavyweight Harka Bahadur Chettri (MLA from Kalimpong) walked out of Bimal Gurung’s outfit and pledged his support to Mamata Banerjee. Abdur Rezzak Mollah, the redoubtable land minister of CPI(M) is also going to join her in a few days and prominent Muslim leader Siddiqullah Chowdhury is dying to fight the elections with support from the Trinamool Congress. And on Friday, Mamata Banerjee staged another coup: eight central committee members of the GJM quit the party, saying that they would support the ruling party in Dooars, Terai and Siliguri areas.
All these Trinamool moves come even as the Congress and the Left are talking of an alliance against the Trinamool.
In the 2011 Assembly polls the Left secured 41.05% of the votes while the Congress bagged 8.91%. The Trinamool Congress secured 39.08% of the votes and rode to power. It is apparent from this poll arithmetic that Mamata Banerjee has reason to worry if the Congress-Left alliance becomes a reality and hence the lookout for any support that could come the Trinamool way.
On Friday, eight central committee members of the GJM formed the Dooars, Siliguri, Terai Bhartiya Nepali Development Forum and held a meeting with Mamata Banerjee at the state secretariat.
Significantly, over the past few years, a number of opposition MLAs and leaders have joined the Trinamool Congress, strengthening the chief minister’s hands. From Udayan Guha in Cooch Behar to Rabindranath Chatterjee in Katwa, these leaders will add significant votes to the Trinamool kitty.
Last year, the Trinamool orchestrated a coup of sorts when Kalimpong MLA Harka Bahadur Chettri left the GJM and formed Jan Andolan Party. Soon after, he began publicly praising the CM’s efforts to develop the backward Hills.
While the Hills are a prestige issue for the chief minister, she may be scoring some real political points by winning over minority faces such as Siddiqullah Chowdhury and Abdur Rezzak Mollah. On January 11, both Chowdhury and Mollah met the chief minister at the state secretariat. The minorities had stood by the Trinamool Congress in the parivartan vote of 2011.