The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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All political leaders demand unflinching loyalty from their flock. But some, like Ms Mamata Banerjee, make it difficult for the flock to remain loyal. No wonder that lesser leaders of her party, the Trinamool Congress, are often at a loss as to how to prove their loyalty and yet carry out the tasks assigned to them. The chief whip of the party in the Lok Sabha, Mr Ranjit Panja, obviously failed to find a way out of the dilemma and offered to resign from the post. Resigning at the same time as the president of a party unit, he accused some “uncivilized” party legislators in the West Bengal assembly of making things difficult for him. But his offer to resign the Lok Sabha post shows that his grievance is primarily against Ms Banerjee. Although he would not say it in so many words because that would amount to a revolt against her, Mr Panja was evidently unhappy with her for patronizing his tormentors. Mr Panja is only the latest in a line of party leaders who felt the same humiliation before being forced to quit their responsibilities. His brother and rebel Trinamool Congress parliamentarian, Mr Ajit Panja, was the first to face the dilemma of following a mercurial leader. Even the previous chief whip of the party in the Lok Sabha, Mr Sudip Bandyopadhyay, once her closest confidant, had to quit the post in the wake of serious differences with her.

There are times when these no longer remain intra-party problems. The functioning of the Calcutta municipal corporation, which is run by the party, is often held hostage to the Trinamool shenanigan. The mayor of Calcutta, Mr Subrata Mukherjee, would thus find himself at odds with members of his own council who defy him in her name. Worse still, important development schemes or administrative steps are sacrificed at the altar of the leaders’ personality clashes. The most glaring example was the way she forced Mr Mukherjee to withdraw the water tax he had proposed for some sections of the citizens of Calcutta. It not only deprived the mayor of an opportunity to help improve the corporation’s precarious finances but also put him in an avoidable conflict with the West Bengal government. In pursuing her politics of confrontation with the Left Front, she also put an embargo on her party’s legislators seeing ministers in their offices at Writers’ Buildings. It did little to embarrass the government, but greatly inconvenienced the legislators who needed to visit government offices to inquire about development projects in their constituencies. This is surely no way to earn party loyalty or help people’s causes.

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