Bypolls a test for TMC and PK
Bypolls in three Bengal Assembly seats, campaigning for which ended on Saturday, will be a litmus test for the Trinamul Congress’s claim that it managed to stage a turnaround following its unimpressive performance in the general election.
But the byelections are more challenging for poll strategist Prashant Kishor who was engaged by Mamata Banerjee to reverse the erosion in Trinamul base.
The micro management of Trinamul’s campaign by Kishor’s I-PAC team was the topic of discussions among party leaders in the three seats.
“I have been part of Trinamul’s campaigning for at least 15 years. This time, we went about campaigning in a different manner because we followed whatever the I-PAC team told us,” said a Trinamul leader in Nadia’s Karimpur.
Local Trinamul leaders went about area-wise campaigning in Karimpur based on plans drawn up by a band of youths from Team PK.
Apart from Karimpur, Kaliyaganj in North Dinajpur and Kharagpur Sadar in West Midnapore will also vote on Monday.
A disgruntled senior Trinamul leader, who was sitting idle, was nudged by some youths into campaigning in Kaliyaganj.
Some youths were regularly arming Trinamul leaders with talking points to take on the BJP’s campaign in Kharagpur Sadar.
Six months after the setback that Trinamul suffered in the Lok Sabha polls, the stage is set for another contest between the two main political forces in Bengal.
“Yes, it’s a test for us. But probably, a bigger test for PK and his team,” said a Nadia district Trinamul leader, who was looking after the campaigning of the party’s Karimpur candidate Bimalendu Sinha Roy
The Patna-based strategist agreed to provide a makeover for Trinamul in June. The deal was sealed on June 7 when
Prashant, accompanied by MP Abhishek Banerjee, met Mamata in Calcutta.
From July, the I-PAC team, which includes at least 300 professionals like data analysts, field surveyors and experts in the fields of management, information technology and statistics, began working for Trinamul.
The challenge facing PK is, however, not easy. Out of the three seats, only Karimpur was won by Trinamul in 2016. The ruling party lost Kharagpur to the BJP and Kaliyaganj to the Congress.
Analysis of Assembly segment-wise results of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls reveal that Trinamul secured a comfortable margin in Karimpur, which is under the Murshidabad parliamentary seat. The BJP managed leads both in Kharagpur Sadar and Kaliyaganj.
Sources in I-PAC said around 25 youths had been working for the revival of Trinamul’s poll fortune for the past three months, particularly in Kharagpur and Kaliaganj. They studied what went wrong for the party during the Lok Sabha polls.
A Trinamul leader in Kaliyaganj said: “The PK team began from the grassroots level where we probably failed. The results in the gram panchayat and Lok Sabha polls revealed a sort of isolation at the root. The Team PK tried to re-establish this relationship by reaching out to people.”
Members of the Team PK, who have been largely working as Trinamul’s official ‘Media Team’, also formulated the core planning of the campaigning. “They worked independently surveying the ground realities and provided the feedback to the party and proposed the strategy,” said a young Trinamul leader in Karimpur.
A member of the I-PAC team working in Karimpur said: “We tried to bridge the gap between the party and people and at the same time to identify the glitches.”
Minister Rajib Banerjee, who took an active part in Trinamul’s campaign in Karimpur and Kaliyaganj, said: “We are hopeful people would repose faith on us. In the past few months, the Team PK was working tirelessly. They are satisfied with their job. We too want to be satisfied on November 28 when the results will be announced.”