TMC MLAs question Prashant Kishor; rebel says Mamata Banerjee no more in control

There’s resentment among some MLAs in TMC that organisational decisions have been left to Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee and Prashant Kishor.
Political strategist Prashant Kishor’s role and authority within the TMC has come into question after some recent changes in party.(PTI Photo)
Political strategist Prashant Kishor’s role and authority within the TMC has come into question after some recent changes in party.(PTI Photo)
Updated on Nov 17, 2020 09:31 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Kolkata | By

Causing embarrassment for the Trinamool Congress (TMC) leadership, two more senior legislators of the party have spoken out against election strategist Prashant Kishor, while a third, who was branded a rebel last month, has said that Mamata Banerjee is no more in control of the party.

Like heavyweight transport minister Suvendu Adhikari, these legislators too are agitated because organisational matters are being decided at the recommendation of Kishor, who was roped in by Banerjee after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 18 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2019. Kishor works as a team with the chief minister’s nephew and Lok Sabha member Abhishek Banerjee.

While two of these MLAs are from north Bengal region where the BJP won seven out of the eight Lok Sabha seats, one is a Muslim leader from Murshidabad where the community comprises 66.28 % of the population and its votes are crucial for the TMC in the coming assembly polls.

Mihir Goswami, the senior legislator from Cooch Behar South constituency who relinquished all organizational responsibilities in October and said he was ready to resign from the assembly as well, on Tuesday wrote a long post on social media. He said that he tolerated many insults and adverse situations since 1989 but never left the TMC only because of Didi (Banerjee).

“This is no longer Didi’s party. She is aloof. That is why Didi’s men are no longer required. If you have to stay, you have to be a ‘yes man’ or else, leave,” wrote Goswami.

Expressing anguish for not receiving a phone call from Banerjee in six weeks, he wrote, “My party is no longer in the hands of my leader. This can no longer be my party.”

Ever since BJP’s Cooch Behar Lok Sabha MP, Nisith Pramanik, met Goswami at his residence after Durga Puja, speculations have been rife that he might join the saffron camp. “I am giving everything a deep thought,” Goswami said on Tuesday, when asked whether he would leave the TMC.

Though infighting is not new in the TMC, the current spate has its roots in the induction of younger faces in district committees during a reshuffle in July this year. Done on the recommendations of Kishor, the structural changes have made many old-timers insecure.

Another senior TMC leader, Jadadish Chandra Barma Basunia, the legislator from Sitai constituency in Cooch Behar, has spoken in support of Goswami and questioned internal changes being made at the recommendation of Kishor and his team.

“Responsibilities are being given to leaders who helped the BJP in the last election. This will severely affect the TMC’s prospects in 2021. Goswami is being insulted by some people in the party. There is a conspiracy to throw him out. He is a senior and experienced leader,” said Basunia. Members from Kishor’s team met him on Tuesday.

In Murshidabad district, TMC legislator from Hariharpara, Niamot Sheikh openly challenged Kishor’s authority at a rally on Sunday. “Prashant Kishor is the cause of all trouble. Suvendu Adhikari revived the party in Murshidabad. And now leaders who talk to him are facing action,” Sheikh said at the rally.

Also Read: After Bihar, it is now focus Bengal and Tamil Nadu for the BJP

Murshidabad was traditionally a Congress bastion but Adhikari, who hails from East Midnapore district, changed the scenario after he was given charge of the district organization three years ago. Many Congress leaders switched camps under his guidance.

“There are bound to be some differences among members of a big family but Niamot and Basunia should have raised these issues with the leadership instead of speaking in public,” said deputy parliamentary affairs minister and TMC spokesperson Tapas Roy.

Meanwhile, leaders close to Adhikari said that he will address a big rally at Ramnagar in East Midnapore on Thursday where he is likely to announce his next step.

Senior TMC leaders told HT last week that Adhikari is unhappy with Banerjee’s nephew and Lok Sabha member Abhishek Banerjee and Kishor for making the recent organisational changes and wants the party to field candidates of his choice in 65 assembly seats spread across several districts, including Murshidabad and Bankura. This is unacceptable to the leadership.

Also Read: West Bengal: Five injured in an explosion in a house in West Midnapore

Kishor drove down from Kolkata to Adhikari’s home at Kanthi on November 12. The minister, who threw a veiled challenge to the TMC in a huge rally on November 10, was not available. Kishor talked to his father Sisir Adhikari, the TMC’s senior most Lok Sabha member, who represents the Kanthi constituency, for over two hours.

TMC leaders aware of the development said, Kishor conveyed to Adhikari that the leadership might consider discussing the minister’s demand for assembly poll tickets for some of his followers if he stops acting against the party.

Troubled by infighting among district leaders in north Bengal, Abhishek Banerjee and Kishor visited Siliguri last month to iron out differences in the ranks. They discreetly held meetings with leaders from Darjeeling, Alipurduar, South Dinajpur, Cooch Behar and Malda. Goswami skipped the meeting.

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