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Mamata revamps TMC for ‘opposition-free’ Bengal in 2019, BJP calls it daydream

As part of the revamp, the TMC chief axed presidents of six block committees and sacked three key ministers in the first week of June following the BJP’s reasonable performance in last month’s panchayat polls.

india Updated: Jun 12, 2018 18:17 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Mamata Banerjee,TMC,Trinamool Congress
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addresses the media at CM's office in Howrah.(PTI File Photo)

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has started revamping her Trinamool Congress party to checkmate the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the 2019 general elections even as the saffron party mocked her exercise.

As part of the revamp, the TMC chief axed presidents of six block committees and sacked three key ministers in the first week of June following the BJP’s reasonable performance in last month’s panchayat polls.

The changes are part of the Trinamool Congress’ strategy to retain each of its 34 seats and wrest eight seats that the opposition had won in 2014 Lok Sabha polls by installing key party functionaries to achieve Banerjee’s ambition of ‘opposition-free’ Bengal in the 2019 general elections.

According to party leaders familiar with the matter, Banerjee replaced ministers, hailing from Lok Sabha constituencies of Sabha Alipurduar, Jhargram and Krishnanagar North, the three seats where the BJP’s vote share tripled in the rural polls. Alipurduar and Jhargram have seen a phenomenon rise of the BJP while the party earlier had pockets of influence in Krishnanagar.

“We are in the process of identifying weak spots. Mostly issues concerning local leadership generated grievances against our party. The damage will be repaired under Mamata Banerjee’s leadership,” said Partha Chatterjee, state education minister and the party’s secretary general.

Mamata Banerjee has taken the revamp seriously and has made herself the in-charge of tribal affairs to counter the BJP’s rising influence in tribal areas, especially in Purulia and Bankura, where the party’s performance was better than anticipated. The TMC’s block in-charges in these areas have also been replaced after drubbing in the rural polls, a TMC leader said.

Political observers feel Trinamool Congress can sweep the 2019 polls considering that of the eight seats held by opposition six are in the Muslim-majority districts of Murshidabad (3 seats), Malda (2 seats) and North Dinajpur (1 seat) where political equations have changed in favour of Bengal’s ruling party over the past four years.

In the former Congress bastion of Murshidabad, the grand old party has lost many leaders including four MLAs to Trinamool. In Malda and North Dinajpur where the BJP has risen eating into the bases of both Left and Congress, an expected split in opposition votes gives Trinamool the edge over the others.

“Trinamool Congress is using unprecedented level of money and muscle power to wrest Murshidabad and Malda from us. We hope to put up a fight. Let’s see,” said Bengal Congress president Adhir Chowdhury who has been winning from Beherampore since 1999.

In the two seats held by the BJP - Darjeeling and Asansol - represented by Union ministers S S Ahluwalia and Babul Supriyo, the TMC has been able to alter the political equation to its advantage. In Darjeeling, the TMC has been able to split Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which had ensured Ahluwalia’s victory. In Asansol, the TMC has performed better than BJP in all elections since 2014 Lok Sabha polls with the party winning five of the seven seats in 2016 assembly polls.

The BJP calls Trinamool’s target of an opposition-free Bengal a ‘daydream’. “Our rising popularity is forcing the chief minister to dismiss ministers and swap responsibilities of leaders and officers. Our target in Bengal is 22 seats. In 2019, when we will achieve the target, she will have to replace her entire cabinet,” BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said.

Bengal has 42 Lok Sabha seats.

Political analyst and psephologist Biswanath Chakraborty said: “Political equations suggest Trinamool should win all. There is only one X-factor. Many people, including hardcore Trinamool supporters, could not vote in the rural polls. If they consider the trouble as local issue and cast their votes looking up to Mamata Banerjee, it will be fine for the ruling party. But if a section uses their votes for revenge, many equations can change.”

First Published: Jun 12, 2018 17:53 IST