Calcutta, May 14: The Congress has reclaimed the position of principal Opposition from the Trinamul Congress, learning lessons from the CPM’s backbone and Mamata Banerjee’s Achilles heel — organisation.
On the second day of counting of votes cast in Sunday’s panchayat polls, it was clear that the Congress had improved its position, signalling a corresponding fall in Trinamul’s fortunes.
A measure of the upturn in the Congress’ fortunes was in evidence yesterday when the party sprang a surprise by capturing two zilla parishads — Murshidabad and Malda — of the total 17 in the state. The gains were consolidated today as the party captured 1,063 panchayat samity and 7,000 gram panchayat seats, up from its 1998 tally of 831 and 5,962, respectively.
“It is not time yet to interpret it as a resurgence,” said former state Congress president Somen Mitra. “We have done well, very well, in fact, for a host of reasons. We will have to build upon the results to try and pose a stronger challenge to the communists in the coming days.”
For Mitra, and as much for state party chief Pranab Mukherjee, the Congress’ performance comes at an opportune time. The two are expected to use it to break up Trinamul and, internally, to settle the state unit presidency issue.
None in the Congress, however, talked about taking on the CPM-led Left Front on the strength of the party’s panchayat showing because the gap between the champion and the runner-up is huge. All the same, the Congress office on CIT Road erupted in celebrations as the party is touting the success as a symbol of its revenge on Mamata who had walked out five years ago to set up Trinamul.
On the other hand, the mood at Mamata’s residence and the newly built Trinamul office off EM Bypass was sombre.
After managing to retain its traditional hold on north Bengal, the Congress appeared to have demolished Trinamul in its South Bengal bailiwicks like North and South 24-Parganas, Nadia, Birbhum, Murshidabad, Malda, Howrah and Midnapore.
In South 24-Parganas, which lies close to Mamata’s south Calcutta constituency, the Congress improved its tally from 35 to 61 panchayat samity seats.
An analysis shows the Congress has done well in the districts where, backed by organisational skills, it had launched continuous movements in support of popular issues.
A recurring criticism of Mamata’s style of functioning has been the absence of a machinery to carry forward the issues she picks on.
The Congress also tried to match the CPM’s muscle in some places, especially in Murshidabad. “In places where our workers have resisted the CPM’s terror tactics, the people have voted smoothly and in our favour,” said Mitra.
However, the Congress’ showing was not without a few lows. In Purulia, it witnessed a dip from 54 to 37 seats; in North Dinajpur from 104 to 87, and in Cooch Behar from 43 to 26.