No erosion of minority votes, Sagardighi loss was due to organization weakness: Mamata
The results of the recently-concluded Sagardighi Assembly bypolls notwithstanding, there is no erosion of minority votes from the Trinamul Congress kitty. Or so, feels party supremo Mamata Banerjee.
The message was conveyed to the party leadership by Banerjee herself at a crucial meeting held at her Kalighat residence on Friday afternoon where a political roadmap to the upcoming panchayat polls in the state and to the general elections scheduled next year was rolled out. Sources in the party confirmed that Banerjee attributed the “party’s own weaknesses” as the reason for failure in Sagardighi. “Minorities are with us, like they were before,” the party chairperson reportedly said at the meeting.
Interestingly, however, Banerjee removed Haji Nurul Islam from the position of president of the party’s minority cell and replaced him with Mosaraf Hossain, a first time MLA from Itahar in Uttar Dinajpur, and a fresh face of the party. Nurul Islam, an MLA from Haroa in North 24 Parganas and a political veteran, was reportedly rebuked by Banerjee at the meeting. “Your job was to strengthen the minority cell of the party which you failed to do. Reports with me say you never visited the districts regularly,” she reportedly told the leader.
To avoid possible factional rifts and warring lobbies which might ruin the party’s prospects in the panchayat elections, Banerjee also made it clear at the meeting that she would herself finalize the candidate list.
Trinamul was made to eat the humble pie in Murshidabad’s Sagardighi earlier this month when it lost the seat it had won three times on the trot since 2011 to the Left-backed Congress candidate Bayron Biswas by a margin of nearly 23,000 votes. TMC’s Subrata Saha, whose untimely death had forced the Sagardighi bypoll, had won the seat in 2021 by nearly 50,000 votes. The loss in vote share for the party was a significant 19 per cent.
Since the bypoll was the first popularity test the party since the recruitment corruption and other scams surfaced in Bengal leading to leaders like Partha Chatterjee, Manik Bhattacharya and Anubrata Mondal being put behind bars, questions were raised on whether this was a warning bell for the party, that too from a minority-dominated area.
“Subrata Saha was a Hindu. How could he win the elections from Sagardighi?” Banerjee reportedly asked the gathering.
While analyzing the Sagardighi defeat, Banerjee also reportedly lambasted two Murshidabad MPs of her party, Kalilur Rahaman and Abu Taher Khan, significantly accusing them of hobnobbing with Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.
It may not be a coincidence that the Sagardighi Block Development Officer, Surajit Chatterjee, topped the list of administrative officers who were transferred by the state on Friday.
The solution to the so-called weakness was also provided by the party chief. “Go to your grassroots and enhance your ties with the people,” Banerjee reportedly told the leaders. “You have to convince people that the alternative to Trinamul is Trinamul Congress and no other. I am firm about making the Suraksha Kavach and Didir Doot programmes a success. You must give your full efforts to ensure that’s done. Make through scrutiny of voter lists. Take pride in telling people that we have built rural roads with our own money when the Centre looked away,” she reportedly said.
Taking no chances for districts where the party is believed to be facing maximum grassroots challenges, especially those in north Bengal, Banerjee brought back the system of appointing leaders in charge of certain districts. The practice was discontinued by TMC before the 2021 state polls after leaders like Suvendu Adhikari jumped ship.
While Malda, Murshidabad and Uttar Dinajpur were placed under the joint charge of Sabina Yasmin and Siddiqulla Chowdhury, the responsibility for Dakshin Dinajpur was handed over to Tapas Roy. Minister Moloy Ghatak was given the charge of Bankura, West Burdwan and Purulia while veteran Manas Bhuinya was handed over responsibilities of East and West Midnapore as well as Jhargram districts. Minister Arup Biswas was given the responsibility for Nadia.
Banerjee herself retained charge of Birbhum, a responsibility she had recently taken up in the absence of the now-jailed leader Anubrata Mondal.
Speaking to reporters at the end of the meeting, senior Trinamul leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay confirmed that Banerjee would hold district-level review meetings of the party thrice every month. “This would solidify our organization's strength in the grassroots. We aren’t appointing observers for districts like before but certain leaders have been given responsibilities for a few districts,” he said.