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Nephew to be TMC’s Bengal face, Mamata to focus more on national politics

There is a flood of requests from ruling party units in every corner of Bengal for Abhishek Banerjee to address public meetings in the run-up to the LS elections.

india Updated: Sep 26, 2018 07:17 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times,
Abhishek Banerjee,Mamata Banerjee,Trinamool Congress
All India Trinamool Youth Congress president Abhishek Banerjee delivers a speech at a protest demonstration against price hike of petrol and diesel at Esplanade in Kolkata on September 10.(HT File Photo)

Keeping in mind chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s possible political engagements outside the state to shape up an opposition alliance for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress is preparing its electoral campaign plan with her nephew and party MP Abhishek Banerjee in the forefront.

“We will fight the election in the name of Mamata Banerjee but she may have to spend more time outside the state in the interest of national politics. In her absence, Abhishek Banerjee will take charge of Bengal,” said Sonali Guha, deputy speaker of the state assembly and the Trinamool chief’s close aide for years.

The 31-year-old Abhishek, considered close to his aunt, is presently the party’s youth wing chief, a member of the state committee and a Lok Sabha MP.

“Abhishek Banerjee has inherited Didi’s aggression and confidence. He is a craze among the party’s supporters, both old and young,” said Manas Majumdar, Trinamool MLA from Goghat and one of the youngest legislators in Bengal.

After doing an MBA in 2009, Abhishek’s businesses, Leaps & Bounds Infra Consultants Private Limited and Leaps and Bounds Pvt Ltd, were incorporated in May 2011 and April 2012 respectively.

However, he resigned from the companies after becoming an MP in 2014 and presently his wife, Rujira, and parents Amit and Lata look after the two companies, as well as the Leaps & Bounds Management Services LLP, which was incorporated in 2017.

The ground for installing Abhishek as Mamata Banerjee’s political heir has been prepared over the past few years and the process was expedited over the past few months.

Various Trinamool leaders, including the party’s secretary general and education minister Partha Chatterjee and party national general secretary-cum-Lok Sabha MP Subrata Bakshi, have deemed him the party’s future leader.

“Abhishek has grown up closely watching Mamata, both as an uncompromising opposition leader and a committed and successful administrator. He has naturally inherited and developed political instincts. He is the future. The leader of the future will form his own team,” Chatterjee said in June.

According to psephologist Biswanath Chakraborty, a professor of political science at Rabindra Bharati University, the process of installing Abhishek as Mamata Banerjee’s political heir is complete.

“Mamata is eyeing the chair of the prime minister. She has a high chance of clinching all of Bengal’s 42 Lok Sabha seats and that number, even a few less, can make her party crucial to the formation of the new government. She will invest more time in national political in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections and Abhishek will be the key campaigner in Bengal,” he said.

Presently, Abhishek’s office is flooded with pleas from leaders and workers in various districts seeking his time.

“Demand for his time has increased manifold. Leaders and workers from almost every block in the state are seeking his time. However, it will take some more time for us to finalise his campaign schedule,” said Sumit Roy, Abhishek’s media advisor and assistant.

Launching Abhishek in politics and installing him as the Trinamool chief’s heir has been smooth more or less within the party.

In 2011, about three months before the assembly elections in which the Left was ousted after decades in power, banners and posters across the state curiously announced the launch of a new outfit named Yuva. After Mamata Banerjee assumed power, Yuva became Abhishek’s political launchpad, as it turned into a parallel organisation of Trinamool Youth Congress, then headed by Suvendu Adhikary (now transport minister), one of the most popular youth leaders of the party who has his own fan following across Bengal.

In 2015, Abhishek became the Trinamool Youth Congress chief and Yuva was subsequently dissolved.

In September 2018, a massive board put up on a main thoroughfare at Bhawanipur, Mamata Banerjee’s assembly constituency, conspicuously describes her as ‘the leader of the present’ and Abhishek as ‘the leader of the future’.

“He is a fierce speaker but not as accessible as his aunt. Mamata’s biggest USP has been her down-to-earth attitude. Abhishek needs to learn more of that skill from his aaunt,” said a Trinamool Congress leader who did not want to be identified.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has emerged as Trinamool’s key political opponent, is busy chalking out a campaign strategy for targeting Abhishek.

From BJP national president Amit Shah, state president Dilip Ghosh and Trinamool-turned-BJP leader Mukul Roy to district level leaders – virtually no one completes a speech without referring to ‘the nephew’ and hinting and disproportionate growth of his business and assets.

The Diamond Harbour MP, on the other hand, has dragged both Mukul Roy and Amit Shah to court with defamation suits.

Ghosh, however, is unfazed. “For people to understand who we are referring to, dropping hints are enough,” he said.

First Published: Sep 25, 2018 17:48 IST