TMC begins axing rebels for contesting against official nominees in Bengal civic polls

Published on Feb 18, 2022 12:24 AM IST

More expulsions may be ordered on Thursday evening. TMC leaders said this is the first time the party is taking such stern action against dissidents.

Trinamool Congress (TMC) has started suspending party members who have not withdrawn nominations filed against the party’s official candidates for the Bengal civic polls scheduled later this month. (PTI PHOTO.)
Trinamool Congress (TMC) has started suspending party members who have not withdrawn nominations filed against the party’s official candidates for the Bengal civic polls scheduled later this month. (PTI PHOTO.)

Sending a strong message to the rank and file, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) has started suspending and expelling party members who have not withdrawn nominations filed against the party’s official candidates for the February 27 polls at 108 civic bodies spread across Bengal. The polls will be held at around 2,200 seats.

Although the state election commission’s deadline for withdrawing nomination ended a week ago, around 100 ‘rebels’ are still in the fray as independent candidates despite warnings from the party, TMC leaders aware of the development said.

TMC state secretary general Partha Chatterjee announced at Nadia district on Thursday that these ‘independent’ candidates will be summarily expelled if they do not give it in writing that they are quitting the race in support of the official candidates. “The expulsions will be effective even if they win seats,” Chatterjee said.

More expulsions may be ordered on Thursday evening. TMC leaders said this is the first time the party is taking such stern action against dissidents.

More than 20 expulsion and suspension orders were issued till Wednesday night. As many as 17 ‘rebel’ candidates were suspended in West Midnapore and Jhargram districts and two leaders were stripped of their portfolios.

Manas Bhunia, the TMC legislator from Sabang in West Midnapore, said the dissidents were given 48 hours to announce in public they were leaving the race. Those who did not comply were suspended, Bhunia said.

The party expelled eight dissidents in North Dinajpur district on February 13 for ignoring the official list.

Primarily seen as a discord between the TMC’s youth and old brigade, the divisions surfaced on February 4 when two lists of candidates for elections to the state’s 112 civic bodies were released. Polls at four of these civic bodies were held on February 4 and the TMC won.

The list approved by chief minister Mamata Banerjee was physically released by Partha Chatterjee. The controversial list was uploaded almost simultaneously on the party’s Facebook and Twitter page. Discrepancies in around 150 of 2270 names in the two lists triggered agitations in 19 Bengal districts. Although the controversial list was removed from the social media pages on February 13 many of those named in it did not withdraw their nomination.

The discord emerged not only over the selection of candidates but also implementation of the one-man-one-post policy that the party adopted last year.

Amid a social media war between followers of Mamata Banerjee and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee, the former took up the reins of the party on February 12 by dissolving the old national working committee and naming 20 new members of her choice.

Though Abhishek found a place in the new committee that comprised close aides of the chief minister, he was stripped of his portfolio of national general secretary. The others, too, were not given any portfolio. The decision was taken at a meeting at the chief minister’s residence where TMC top leaders gave her in writing that they want her to take all decisions on issues ranging from policy matters to finance, leaders aware of the development said.

TMC leaders said the chief minister may announce the portfolios for the national steering committee members on Friday.

A section of Mamata Banerjee loyalists alleged last week that the “unofficial” list was uploaded by the Indian Political Action Committee, or I-PAC, the company launched by the TMC’s election strategist Prashant Kishor who is now helping the party contest polls in other states, including Goa.

The expansion programme is being spearheaded by Abhishek who introduced Kishor to the chief minister after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wrested 18 of Bengal’s 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2019. I-PAC was hired to help the TMC in the 2021 assembly polls in which the party secured 213 of 294 seats.

I-PAC said on February 11 that it does not control the TMC’s social media pages.

“I-PAC doesn’t handle any digital properties of @AITCofficial or any of its leaders. Anyone making such claim is either uninformed or is blatantly lying. AITC should look into if and how their digital properties and/or that of their leaders are being “allegedly (mis)used,” the company tweeted on its official handle.

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