Confusion lingers over Abhishek statement
A cloud of confusion hung over the Trinamul establishment over the party's all-India general secretary's publicly stated “personal” stand against crowd-pulling events in the time of the pandemic and his much-hyped “model” for his Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha constituency as a section in ruling party felt his words and action proved growing fissures between him and Mamata Banerjee.
Five days have passed since Abhishek shared his "personal opinion" against the conduct of crowd pulling over the next couple of months in view of the third wave of the pandemic, but most Trinamul leaders admitted in private that they were not sure whether Mamata, who has green signaled the ongoing Gangasagar Mela and the January 22 civic polls, was on the same page with the Diamond Harbour MP, her heir apparent.
“I feel in the coming two months everything should be closed, be it a political programme to any festival,” Abhishek had said on Sunday, stressing that it was his "personal onion", after chairing an administrative meeting to assess the Covid situation in South 24 Parganas.
While the leaders close to the No 2 in the party were busy trying to reap the political dividends from the "sensible comment", which got wide endorsement from the civil society, a section in the Trinamul establishment read it as his disapproval for Gangasagar Mela and the impending civic election, which have the apparent backing of Mamata. Some of them even asked whether the party's all India general secretary can have his "personal opinion".
Even as the internal debate on whether Mamata's actions and Abhishek's words were part of a strategy or there have been fissures among them was over, Team Abhishek, including leaders close to him and I-Pac ecosystem of poll consultant Prashant Kishor, went to town with his "Diamond Harbour model".
The model referred mainly to the 53,203 tests conducted in Diamond Harbour on Wednesday – against Abhishek’s declared target of 30,000 – alongside several other measures for intervention, to get cracking against the outbreak.
"It's getting a bit confusing... We don't know whether Didi is approving whatever Abhishek is saying or doing," said a source close to Mamata.
“She (Mamata) has held her cards close to the chest… her lone public statement (on Wednesday) since this happened was ambiguous. This has added to the general state of confusion,” said a Trinamul Rajya Sabha member.
Several other Trinamul insiders echoed him as they wondered whether Mamata gave him a go ahead to hold the administrative meeting, which, till now, has always been her sole prerogative.
While the Trinamul establishment had been watching the developments with utmost caution, the BJP, the Congress and the CPM mounted a rare, united offensive against the ruling party.
The Opposition has not only been critical of the focus on one Lok Sabha constituency in the state, allegedly at the cost of 41 others, they have also tossed up uncomfortable questions on whether there was a contest going on between "Didi and her nephew". The Congress and the CPM mocked the ruling party over the “success” of Abhishek’s so-called Diamond Harbour model, demanding answers on the failure, by corollary, of the “rest of Bengal model” of his aunt.
“Does this not mean the healthcare infrastructure is languishing elsewhere in the state, but it isn’t in Diamond Harbour? Why should people from outside Diamond Harbour remain neglected? The chief minister should answer,” said Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the Congress’s leader in the Lok Sabha, referring to the so-called model that received significant traction from numerous leaders in Trinamul and poll consultant Kishor’s I-Pac over the past few days.
The Covid-19 numbers issued by the state health department stated that 73,043 tests were conducted across Bengal in 24 hours till 9am on Thursday, which would suggest that outside Diamond Harbour, there were only 19,840 tests conducted.
CPM central committee member Sujan Chakraborty asked whether or not it meant that the nephew had passed, while the aunt had failed.
“If 53,000 tests could be conducted in one parliamentary constituency, why couldn’t – at that rate – over 22 lakh tests be conducted across Bengal?” he asked.
The BJP dismissed as “diversionary tactic” both the model and the speculated rift between Trinamul’s top two leaders.
“Neither the model nor the purported rift is a real issue. Trinamul is simply trying to get the mainstream media and the people to keep themselves occupied with these distractions, to deliberately shift focus from the sorry state of Bengal’s healthcare amid the third wave,” said BJP state chief spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya.
On Thursday, Trinamul’s state general-secretary Kunal Ghosh issued a statement, feebly trying to play down conjecture over the purported differences.
“This is not an issue of one model against the others…. Under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee, the public representatives have all been doing their best in their constituencies to combat the pandemic and allied problems. The Diamond Harbour MP is trying his best, in his own way,” said Ghosh.
Ghosh also jeered at the Serampore MP, saying that Kalyan Banerjee's answers depend on the time of the evening the questions are asked.
"This ought to be examined by the party's supreme disciplinary committee," said Ghosh.
Responding to the jibe, the MP said: "I would rather die before taking certificates of character from a man like him (Ghosh)."
"My leader is Mamata Banerjee. I do not have any other leader. I do not accept anybody else as my leader," he added.