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Mamata Banerjee’s TMC may drop up to half of its sitting MPs

West Bengal CM could be among a handful of regional leaders with a chance to be Prime Minister if her party does well in the 2019 elections.

india Updated: Jul 26, 2018 10:38 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Mamata Banerjee,Trinamool Congress,Lok Sabha elections 2019
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee addresses a rally, in Kolkata on July 21, 2018. (PTI)

As West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee prepares her team for the party’s most significant Lok Sabha election next year, she has asked for a detailed review in each of the 42 parliamentary constituencies in the state before finalising candidates, a process that could prevent several sitting Members of Parliament (MPs) from getting the party’s ticket, according to Trinamool Congress (TMC) insiders.

The 2019 Lok Sabha polls will not just be a fight to maximise the party’s tally, but will also play a decisive role in any possible post-poll numbers game in national politics. The West Bengal CM, if her party puts up a good showing, could be among a handful of regional leaders with a chance to be Prime Minister.

At least three senior leaders of the TMC said on condition of anonymity that Banerjee might drop up to half its MPs to accommodate new faces with the sole aim to win the seats. “Some of them are likely to be dropped on health grounds, while a few may be replaced because of the prevailing political situation in those constituencies,” said one of the TMC leaders.

In the upcoming election, the regional satrap will also face an increasing threat from the BJP, which is rapidly emerging as the principal Opposition party in the state.

From a party with just one MP, the All India Trinamool Congress is now the fourth-largest party in Lok Sabha with 34 lawmakers, becoming one of the powerful voices from regional politics.

“But this election will be special for us. There is aspiration to play a larger national role. And in this regard, several candidates may be dropped to accommodate new, more deserving ones,” said a second TMC leader.

TMC’s national spokesperson and one of Banerjee’s most trusted lieutenants, Derek O’Brien, said that all issues related to the elections are discussed and decided in the Working Committee of the party. “The Chairperson of the party, Mamata Banerjee, will take the final call on the candidate selection. No one else has that authority,” he said.

Trinamool insiders point out that three filmstars-turned-MPs, Tapas Paul, Moonmoon Sen and Sandhya Ray, may be relieved from the responsibility keeping in mind their health . Another film star, Bengal’s popular matinee idol Deepak Adhikary, may also be dropped due to his pressing engagements in the film world.

“Banerjee has a very clear idea about who can be the right candidate. In this election, she will also keep in mind the growing influence of the BJP in some areas, particularly north Bengal,” said a third TMC leader.

In seats such as Purulia (south Bengal) and Alipurduars and Coochbehar in the northern part of the state, the BJP’s graph has shown an upward trend. According to the party insiders, MPs Mriganko Mahato, Dasrath Tirkey and Partha Pratim Ray are on shaky ground.

The TMC leaders said one senior MP may be asked to take on an important position in the organisation.

As elections become more competitive, several political parties are looking at the winnability factor. In Odisha, for instance, chief minister Naveen Patnaik of the Biju Janata Dal usually drops a third of his sitting lawmakers.

Sarthak Roychowdhury, professor of economics in Kolkata, said: “Bringing in new MPs may help at times to bridge the gap with the people. But for the Trinamool Congress in 2019, the more important question is what is their agenda? What is their plan of action? The party needs to announce its stand on key issues.”

First Published: Jul 26, 2018 06:43 IST