The Telegraph
Saturday , March 15 , 2014
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Party breathes easy as Didi sees home truth
Need of hour: focus on Bengal

Calcutta, March 14: Trinamul leaders and workers who had misgivings about Mamata Banerjee’s national plans are relieved that she has apparently decided to focus on Bengal for the time being.

Although there has been no announcement, sources said the lukewarm response to Mamata’s rally in Delhi on Wednesday and social activist Anna Hazare’s decision to stay away from it had prompted the chief minister to keep her plan of touring India in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections on hold. Mamata will address a series of party conferences in the districts instead, the sources said.

“Her message is simple. She doesn’t want to discuss what happened in Delhi, nor is she interested in a blame game. Right now, she wants to concentrate on Bengal, which is her turf,” a source close to the chief minister said.

Such a move would mark a departure from the Trinamul chief’s plan as the Delhi rally had been billed as the kick-off point of Mamata’s national campaign for the Lok Sabha elections.

By joining hands with Hazare, Trinamul was supposed to field candidates in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Jharkhand, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Delhi, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Sikkim. Mamata, the sources said, was supposed to campaign in the states.

But after the Ramlila Maidan damper, no one in Trinamul is willing to talk about possible dates of her meetings outside Bengal.

“Apart from Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and Jharkhand — where the party has some presence — there is no point fielding candidates anywhere else,” a Trinamul source said.

According to him, most Trinamul leaders wanted to forewarn Mamata about the perils of aligning herself with other parties and individuals, but thought it prudent not to because she was “keen” on pursuing her national agenda.

But after the “misadventure” in Delhi, murmurs are being heard in Trinamul and the “message” has reached Mamata, who “quickly recast her plan and refocused on Bengal”.

From next week, the Trinamul chief will start touring the districts. Her rally in Ahmedabad, which was scheduled for March 20, has been postponed.

“Bengal is our only stronghold and we should try to maximise our gains from here. Mamata is the main crowd-puller and she needs to campaign for all 42 Lok Sabha poll candidates in Bengal. It is good that she has realised what the need of the hour is,” a senior Trinamul leader said.

The leader warned that ignoring Bengal could prove costly for the party as the state was heading towards a four-cornered fight in the elections and a swing of a few percentage points could change the outcome. “Unless we put up a good show in Bengal, we cannot have any national presence,” he said.

Trinamul leaders cited the examples of Jayalalithaa and Mayawati. “Both of them harbour national ambitions, but neither has ventured out of her state. Outside Bengal, Trinamul hardly has any presence,” another leader said.

In Trinamul circles, the buzz is Mamata should focus on Bengal and help the star candidates, such as actors Dev and Moon Moon Sen, in their maiden poll fight.

Trinamul has swept all elections in Bengal since the 2011 Assembly polls, but this is the first time since its formation that the party is gearing up to contest a major election alone. Moreover, a section in the party is unhappy with the selection of some candidates and the discontent has to be stemmed, sources said.

“The only person who can tackle discontent is Didi. So she is needed more in the state. We are happy that she is not going anywhere for the time being,” a district leader said.