The Trinamul Congress has removed from its official social media platforms the civic election candidates’ lists that were allegedly attributed to people close to Prashant Kishor and described as unauthorised by Mamata Banerjee.
The lists, circulated 10 days ago, were taken down less than 24 hours after the chief minister entrusted the party’s state general secretary, Kunal Ghosh, and ministers Aroop Biswas and Chandrima Bhattacharya with the responsibility of seizing the reins of external communications from poll consultant Kishor.
All three leaders are part of Trinamul’s 20-member national working committee, formed on Saturday.
“Team PK had been handling our external communications since it was brought on board in 2019,” a source said.
The source, a Trinamul Rajya Sabha member, added: “Various units used to micro-manage every aspect, right down to the choice of people for statements on social or mainstream media, and who would say what to which outlet…. Unless there is some drastic, unforeseen change soon, that is a thing of the past.”
He said Mamata had, not long after the meeting at her residence on Saturday evening where all top-tier posts in the party other than hers were scrapped, picked Ghosh, Biswas and Bhattacharya to take command of external communications.
“Restructuring the entire operations for social media would take a bit of time, but for mainstream media, work began for the trio right away,” said the Rajya Sabha member.
While Ghosh is deemed close to Mamata’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee, Biswas and Bhattacharya are known for their proximity to the old guard that has the Trinamul chief’s backing.
“Their first order of business was to have those contentious, unauthorised lists taken down from our official pages and handles on social media. They had been uploaded around 5.30pm on February 4 and nobody knows why they remained till this afternoon,” the Rajya Sabha MP added.
Since the controversy broke over the lists, key Trinamul pages, handles and groups handled by I-PAC, Kishor’s poll consultancy, have largely been silent on the activities of the party, including those of its leader Mamata.
On February 5, messages meant for journalists and attributed to I-PAC “sources” had suggested the firm had no role in the lists, which was seen as an attempt by the company to wash its hands of the matter.
On Friday, I-PAC issued a dramatic statement attacking minister Bhattacharya and the party over the allegation that the firm had uploaded content using her handle in favour of the “one person, one post” policy backed by Abhishek and Kishor, which had been rejected earlier in the day by the party.
Hours after the lists of candidates were circulated widely on February 4, two members of the old guard, Partha Chatterjee and Subrata Bakshi, had issued statements disowning them as preliminary and released internally the “final” lists.
In a public statement later, Mamata backed the lists released by Chatterjee and Bakshi, dismissing the other lists.
However, the unseemly scenes over the differences between the two sets of lists, which unfolded on the evening of February 4, continued till Wednesday.
The fiasco has drastically worsened Mamata’s ties with Kishor and escalated the tension between aunt and nephew. Abhishek and Kishor worked as a unit, with virtually complete support for each other, since the poll consultant was hired in 2019.
“She (Mamata) is in the process of finalising whether there will be any working relationship in any form with PK, going forward. Even if something is worked out, it will be firmly under Kalighat’s (where Mamata’s residence is located) command, not Camac Street’s (the location of Abhishek’s office),” a Trinamul insider said.
He said the seeds of Mamata’s displeasure with Kishor were sown in the wake of Trinamul’s triumph against the BJP last summer. The poll consultant was seen as hogging the limelight nationally, claiming the lion’s share of the credit for a win that would have been impossible without Mamata’s leadership.