Kolkata: As many as 27 star campaigners, a mega roadshow by heavyweight Abhishek Banerjee and multiple complaints to the state election commission couldn’t save the Trinamool Congress’s fortunes in the Tripura byelections. Nevertheless, the party is pressing on with its plans to build up its organisation and open a headquarters in the state, in preparation for next year’s assembly polls.
In the byelections to four assembly seats that were held on 23 June, all four TMC candidates — Mrinal Kanti Debnath (Jubarajnagar), Arjun Namasudra (Surma), Sanhita Banerjee (Town Bordowali), Panna Deb (Agartala) — lost their deposits.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won three of the four seats while one, Agartala, went to the Congress. The results were announced Sunday.
The Trinamool’s Tripura president, Subal Bhowmik, refused to see the results as a “setback” for the party, which is eyeing the assembly election battle next year with the aim of overthrowing the BJP government.
“We are only 11 months old here in Tripura; there is some weakness in our committees and a lack of consistency. But we will overcome these in the coming days,” he told ThePrint.
“We are in the process of forming our block-level and district-level committees that will help us clinch the 2023 elections,” he said, adding that the TMC will inaugurate its state headquarters in Agartala next week.
Bhowmik, who is also a former Congress leader, explained: “In the bypolls, the people of Tripura knew they couldn’t change the government. So, they voted for the Congress to defeat the BJP. Two powerful leaders were in the fray — Manik Saha (Tripura CM, who won from Town Bordowali) and Sudip Roy Barman (who rejoined the Congress after stints in the TMC and the BJP, and won from Agartala).”
“But in 2023, the people will have the power to change the government. The BJP got just 1.5 per cent of the vote in 2013 (Assembly election) but went on to form the government here (in 2018). Similarly, people are responding to the Trinamool, and Abhishek Banerjee has kept us charged up. We are certain about winning in 2023,” he added.
Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the party’s leader in the Lok Sabha and head of its West Bengal unit, took a dig at the TMC while addressing the media in Agartala Monday: “If the Trinamool claims they will win the 2023 elections in Tripura, all the donkeys in Agartala will start laughing. The Trinamool’s main competitor in Tripura is not the BJP or other parties like the CPI(M) or the Congress; NOTA (None of The Above) is their main competitor.”
Last week, on polling day, West Bengal CM and TMC president Mamata Banerjee had alleged at a news conference in Kolkata that people in Tripura were not being allowed to step out and vote. “Tripura saw the death of democracy in the bypolls today. People were tortured and not allowed to vote,” she had claimed.
After three consecutive assembly poll victories in West Bengal, the TMC has launched a drive to spread its footprint nationally. But it has not yet had much electoral success in states such as Goa, Tripura, Assam, and Meghalaya, where it breached its ties with the Congress by inducting popular leaders like Sushmita Dev, Mukul Sangma, and Luizinho Faleiro.
Jayanta Ghoshal, a political analyst and author of Mamata: Beyond 2021, told ThePrint that the Trinamool had failed to create a success story outside of Bengal, but Mamata Banerjee’s focus is still her own state.
“The TMC at the end of the day is a regional party of West Bengal. In the short term, Mamata wants to consolidate West Bengal and bring back the 18 seats the BJP won in the state in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls,” he said.
“Be it Goa or Tripura, the Congress is still significant and the Trinamool did have misadventures. In the long term, Abhishek Banerjee has already said, even if it takes 10 years, the party will fight in other states and build itself. But Tripura or Goa will never be a do-or-die for Mamata, unlike Bengal,” he added.
On the TMC’s political fortunes, Sourjya Bhowmick, analyst and author of Gangster State: The Rise and Fall of the CPI(M) in West Bengal, said: “To win outside West Bengal, you need a leader who is popular across India. Mamata Banerjee is prominent in national politics but not like Jayaprakash Narayan or Indira Gandhi. Nationally, the Trinamool might grab the headlines, but they don’t seem serious about politics. In Goa, they said they would give Rs 5,000 a month to households, but where would that money come from?”
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)
Source: The Print