Trinamool Congress faces flak in rural Bengal outreach campaign
About 220 Trinamool Congress leaders have visited villages and the TMC helpline has received about 600,000 complaintsUpdated: Aug 19, 2019 09:54 IST
On August 13, Trinamool Congress MLA Manas Majumdar travelled to Kamalbati village in West Bengal’s Hooghly district as part of the Gramey Chalo (Go to Villages) campaign, launched by chief minister Mamata Banerjee to give disgruntled people a chance to vent their grievances.
In the village, where he stayed overnight, Majumdar got a mouthful from the people on how badly social welfare schemes were run, an issue that is certain to haunt the TMC leadership ahead of the 2021 elections.
Laxmikanta Ghosh, a doctor, told Majumdar there was nothing wrong with the government’s policies but the attitude of lower-level workers was a matter of concern. “They must learn to show restraint,” he said, citing the example of a local TMC leader who extorted money last year for a bigger Durga puja.
Stunned by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) picking up 18 of the state’s 42 seats in the general elections, Banerjee has drafted in political strategist Prashant Kishor to help with damage control. Trinamool’s tally fell from 34 in the 2014 elections to 22 this year.
On Kishor’s advice, Banerjee has launched the Didike Bolo (Tell Didi) campaign, in which people can send her complaints on a helpline number and an email id, and the Gramey Cholo campaign, in which 1,000 elected public representatives will visit 10,000 villages in 100 days.
The villages to be visited are chosen by Kishor’s Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) team . So far, about 220 TMC leaders have visited villages and the helpline has received about 600,000 complaints. Goghat was a focus area as the TMC was trailing there by 8,000 votes in the Lok Sabha polls despite winning all previous elections since 2016.
Like Majumdar, TMC legislator Hamidul Rahman had to face public anger when he visited Sonapur Tin Mile and Bhotamari villages on August 4. Nearly 500 people gathered outside the house of a local TMC leader, in whose house he was staying, and demanded concrete roads, culverts and toilets.
“The most startling revelation came when some residents presented documents showing that money allotted against their job card (for MGNREGA) went to bank accounts of another person and that funds allotted against a recipient of the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awas Yojna was deposited in another person’s account. An investigation has been ordered. Complaints will be lodged with the police once we gather all relevant data,” said Rahman, MLA from Chopra in Uttar Dinajpur district.
Likewise, state law minister Malay Ghatak – he is the MLA from Asansol Dakshin in West Burdwan – too had a rough time. He went to Suidi village, where a youth spoke on behalf of the locals about lack of basic amenities, water for irrigation and the bad condition of the roads.
These visits have given the BJP a handle to attack TMC.
“It proves that TMC leaders had no touch with the ground,” BJP state unit president Dilip Ghosh said.
Amal Mukhopadhyay, former principal of Presidency College, said the TMC leadership would now get a fair idea of what cost them so many Lok Sabha seats. “The party is using it like a safety valve of a pressure cooker,” he said.
First Published: Aug 19, 2019 09:54 IST