Barely has the Congress party started licking its wounds from the electoral defeats in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Yet Trinamul Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee and her nephew, the party’s national general secretary, Abhishek Banerjee, chose the opportunity to rub what seemed to be measured amounts of salt in the wounds of the country’s grand old party.
Speaking on the floor of the Bengal Assembly House on Monday, less than 24 hours after the poll results in four states including the Congress’s only silver lining, Telangana, were announced, Mamata Banerjee called the results “a defeat of the Congress and not of the people”. “It wasn’t a BJP victory, but a victory of vote division,” she said, while participating in a discussion on a state finance department standing committee report.
“One must learn lessons from these results, rectify the mistakes and work unitedly in the INDIA alliance platform. If there’s proper seat sharing in the 2024 general elections, the BJP won’t return to power,” the Bengal chief minister asserted.
Abhishek, on the other hand, was more discreet in his critique of Congress party strategies in the state polls. “Let the vanquished quickly rectify their mistakes because there’s not much time left. Let’s not waste any more time and work together,” said the coordination committee member of the Opposition INDIA bloc before catching a flight to Bagdogra at the Calcutta airport.
In the Assembly, the chief minister drew upon figures from the Rajasthan poll results to illustrate her point. “The BJP secured less than 42 per cent votes and the Congress over 39.5 per cent. The non-BJP Opposition parties secured support from 12 per cent voters. If there were a proper seat sharing arrangement in that state, there’s no way that the BJP could have won that state,” she said.
Advocating for seats for the Samajwadi Party, another constituent of the INDIA alliance platform, albeit without naming the party, Banerjee said: “They had asked for six seats. They could have, at least, been given three.”
While the TMC has been urging that seat sharing talks within the Opposition bloc for the general elections should begin without delay, the matter had reportedly been put in the backburner by the Congress, till at least the state elections got over, perceptively to up the party’s bargaining chips based on the state poll results which, obviously, did not turn out as expected. The warning notes from the Trinamul top duo, observers believe, were only to assert the need for the Congress to take back a step or two in the current context and spread out those chips evenly among the other constituents of the bloc.
The results, observers believe, also givevan opportunity to the Trinamul supremo to counter Congress’s political one-upmanship at the bloc and increase her prominence in the Opposition platform.
While Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge has reportedly convened the next meeting of the INDIA bloc on December 6, there’s little chance that the TMC brass would attend the event. While Abhishek is in Kurseong to attend a family function, Mamata too has scheduled a week-long North Bengal tour from Wednesday and tag that along with the personal family programme that she too is supposed to attend.
“I have no information about any such meeting. I would have surely attended the meeting if I had that information. But now I have already scheduled a North Bengal tour during that time and I will stick to that schedule,” Mamata told reporters on Monday evening.
“It’s the public who will decide whether it would be Mamata Banerjee or Rahul Gandhi or Uddav Thackerey or Arvind Kejriwal who would be the face of the Opposition bloc. I am no one to decide that. I am just a small fry, an ordinary worker of my party,” Abhishek said earlier in the day when asked whether the latest state poll results would lead to a change in leadership face of the INDIA bloc.
Asked about the possible impact the results may have on electoral fortunes in Bengal for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, the TMC’s perceived second-in-command said: “I don’t think there would be any impact of these results on the poll figures of Bengal. That’s because elections in Bengal would be fought on issues concerning this state. It won’t be fought on what happened in Rajasthan, MP or Chhattisgarh. Last time in 2018, when BJP lost in all the three states it won this time, the party maintained that it wouldn't impact BJP Lok Sabha poll fortunes. Going by their logic then, it should have an impact this time as well.”
“Let it be known that the current electoral triumphs don't automatically forecast the outcome in 2024. We stand united, resolute in our commitment to fiercely challenge BJP's perceived tyranny. Their tough fight is just beginning!” the TMC posted on its official X handle.