In 2021 polls, TMC prepares to regain its lost ground in ‘Jangalmahal’
The TMC is preparing a three-pronged attack in a bid to take on the BJP, which has made deep inroads into the tribal-dominated areas and also swept all four seats there in 2019 parliamentary pollsUpdated: Sep 13, 2020 11:46 IST
The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal, which appears to have lost ground in ‘Jangalmahal’ in the western parts of the state, is eyeing to regain it in the coming assembly elections slated to be held in the middle of next year.
The TMC is preparing a three-pronged attack in a bid to take on the rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has made deep inroads into the tribal-dominated areas over the past few years and also swept all four seats there in last year’s parliamentary polls.
TMC chief and Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who is banking on her development card, has introduced a raft of organisational changes to bring young and honest faces in the ruling party.
There are also reports of alleged Maoist activities in ‘Jangalmahal’, once a Communist Party of India (Maoist) stronghold, after a gap of almost a decade.
The counter-insurgency force (CIF) is being reactivated to nip Maoist activities, if any.
However, Banerjee has claimed that the news of alleged Maoist activities was fake and that the truth would be uncovered soon.
The TMC announced a structural overhaul in Bankura and Purulia districts last week.
“The party is calling it the ‘great purge’. Local leaders and workers, who received poor feedback from the grassroots, have been removed from key roles. Instead, new and honest faces have been promoted,” said an I-PAC functionary, the company owned by election strategist Prashant Kishor, who has been roped in by Banerjee for her bid to win the next year’s assembly polls.
Earlier in July, the TMC had inducted Chhatradhar Mahato and appointed him as a secretary of the state unit.
Mahato used to be the poster boy of the Maoist-backed tribal movement at Lalgarh in ‘Jangalmahal’. Political analysts said that Mahato’s induction was an attempt to use his image by the TMC to curtail the BJP’s influence in the tribal-dominated belt.
“People didn’t vote for the BJP in Jangalmahal on the basis of the party’s ideology. They just voted against a section of the grassroots TMC workers as they were peeved with their corruption and high-handedness,” Mahato recently told media persons.
The BJP’s influence in ‘Jangalmahal’ started growing since 2014. The TMC suffered a blow in the area in the 2018 panchayat elections.
In Jhargram district, of the 780 gram panchayats, where elections were held, 373 and 329 seats were won by the TMC and the BJP, respectively. Similarly, in Purulia district, of the 1,921 seats, where voting was held, the TMC and the BJP won 754 and 528 gram panchayat seats, respectively.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP gave the ruling TMC another jolt after it won all the seats that fall under ‘Jangalmahal’ (Purulia, Midnapore, Bishnupur and Jhargram).
‘Jangalmahal’ has been one of the focus areas of Banerjee since the TMC came to power in 2011. The party can also hope to play the development card to counter the BJP’s growing influence.
“The region has seen a sea change since Banerjee came to power as far as development is concerned. The government can speak of significant achievement in almost every sector whether it is education, health, tourism and infrastructure,” said Shantiram Mahato, minister for pashimanchal unnyan affairs department.
Over the past few weeks, posters allegedly written by Maoists have resurfaced in ‘Jangalmahal’, prompting Virendra, director-general of police (DGP), West Bengal, to rush to the area in August to take stock of the security measures.
Banerjee has sought a report on the ground reality and has also asked the police’s stop brass to reactivate the CIF, which was formed in 2010 to tackle the Maoist insurgency in ‘Jangamahal’.
“It appears that Maoists are trying to regroup and have also held some meetings, including one attended by a TMC state committee leader. The TMC government has failed as most of the people in ‘Jangalamahal’ still live below the poverty line. It will be difficult for the ruling party to regain its lost ground,” said Amal Mukherjee, a political commentator and a former principal of Presidency College, which has since been upgraded to a state university, in Kolkata.
The organisational changes came after the TMC’s survey and feedback from the people through the Didi ke Bolo campaign hinted at ominous signs that the public were unhappy with the local leaders and workers.
“If the TMC thinks that it can regain its lost ground then it is living in a fool’s paradise. The party’s efforts to create trouble in Jangalmahal by reactivating the Maoists will boomerang. It will expose them further,” said Rahul Sinha, national secretary, BJP.