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Mamata Banerjee plans rural outreach for state polls

Even as the BJP’s success in West Bengal is one of the biggest stories of the 2019 national election, the Trinamool remains hopeful of changing the tide, the party leaders said.

india Updated: Jun 17, 2019 10:56 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Mamata Banerjee,Bharatiya Janata Party’,Communist Party of India
CM Mamata Banerjee plans a mass contact programme in villages to enhance the party’s support base, according to senior TMC leaders.(AP File Photo)

With an eye on the 2021 assembly polls in West Bengal, chief minister Mamata Banerjee plans a mass contact programme in villages to enhance the party’s support base, according to senior Trinamool Congress leaders.

The move comes in the wake of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s victory in 18 out of 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal, the saffron party’s best ever performance in the state. The TMC bagged 22, down from 34 that it had secured in 2014 general elections.

“In the last two years, the chief minister had to focus on inauguration of public projects and her meetings were mostly related to those programmes. She travelled to the districts more than any other leaders but again her interactions were largely confined to holding administrative meetings where the officials, elected representatives and local police officers would be present,” said one of the leaders cited above.

“She [the CM] herself has realized that her earlier style of freely interacting with the people were missing due to her hectic schedule as the party chief and an administrator. In a post-poll review meeting, she emphasized on restarting the mass contact programme. She also asked all senior colleagues to do the same,” said another Trinamool leader.

Even as the BJP’s success in West Bengal is one of the biggest stories of the 2019 national election, the Trinamool remains hopeful of changing the tide, the party leaders said.

“Let us not forget that we got more seats than the BJP and we also got 43.3% of the popular votes. And we still have the time to vigorously reach out to the people and enhance it to 50%. It is very clear to the people that Trinamool is the only political force in West Bengal that is fighting against the BJP,” said Sudip Bandopadhyay, TMC leader in the Lok Sabha.

The concept of mass contact is also a pet idea of Trinamool’s arch rival, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), that had ruled the state for 34 years until its crushing defeat in 2011. While both the Left and the TMC remains fiercely opposed to each other, they both would try to chart a similar path with an eye on the next assembly poll.

According to the Trinamool’s initial plan, Banerjee would hold rallies and conduct “yatras” at the block-level to reach out to as many villages as possible. “It would be a freewheeling interaction—something Banerjee is master of—with the Trinamool’s supporters. It would also act like a political assurance to our workers at this difficult time when they are often under attack from the BJP that Trinamool leadership is present and vibrant,” said a third TMC leader.

The results of the recent Lok Sabha elections underlined that tackling the BJP’s upsurge would be a different game for the Trinamool which has so far fought primarily against the Left and the Congress. Banerjee’s mass contact programme, the party leaders believe, might also help to stem in the corruptions at the grassroots level that has even left the Trinamool leadership worried.

In her last review meeting, Banerjee spoke about the urgent need to curb corruption in the implementation of social sector schemes and asked police to be stricter in dealing with corruption cases.

First Published: Jun 17, 2019 10:56 IST