For ‘Mission Northeast’ success, TMC must lose Goa formula, work on grassroots

The party’s strategy in the northeast, where four states – Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram – will go to the polls next year, is to broaden its base at the expense of Congress, which faces near extinction In the region. The formula, however, is not promising enough and failed in Goa

Mamata Banerjee

The Trinamool Congress Northeast mission runs the risk of suffering the same fate as its stay in Goa if it continues to bank on poaching disgruntled Congress leaders to build the party organization.

The party’s strategy in the northeast, where four states – Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram – will go to the polls next year, is to broaden its base at the expense of Congress, which faces near extinction in the region he dominated for decades. .

Former Assam Pradesh Congress leader Ripun Bora is the latest Congress leader to join the TMC. He dumped the big old party just a fortnight after failing to secure a Rajya Sabha seat for himself from the state as a Congress candidate.

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Few in Assam think this is a good catch given that Bora is not a mass leader. Moreover, the political career of this Assam Civil Service (ACS) officer turned politician is marred with controversy.

He was arrested in Delhi in 2008 for allegedly paying a ₹10 lakh bribe to a CBI official, who was investigating the murder of Daniel Topno, an influential Tea Tribe leader. Bora was one of the defendants in the murder case.

The timing of his time at TMC also raised questions about his motives.

“Under his leadership, the Congress lost the Assembly elections and yet he was again nominated by the party for the seat of Rajya Sabha. Right after his defeat, he moved to the TMC, hoping that like the others Congress defectors who had joined Mamata Banerjee’s party, he too would be rewarded with a seat in the Rajya Sabha,” said Assam Congress spokesman Apurba Bhattacharjee.

Six Bengal Rajya Sabha seats will be vacant next year.

Bora is the second prominent Congress leader from Assam to join the TMC. In August last year, former Congresswoman for Silchar constituency in Assam, Sushmita Dev joined the ruling Bengal party.

Former All India Congress President Mahila was quickly rehabilitated by the TMC with a Rajya Sabha of Bengal seat less than a month after joining the party.

The TMC offered a similar ‘sinecure’ to former Goa Chief Minister Luizinho Faleiro whom it enlisted to expand its base in the coastal state. The veteran congressional leader’s move to the TMC had created a buzz in the state for the party ahead of the Assembly elections earlier this year. Following in Faleiro’s footsteps, another former Goa chief minister and NCP leader, Churchill Alemao, a few other disgruntled Congress leaders, celebrities and civil society activists had jumped on the TMC bandwagon.

The party’s hope of making an electoral mark in Goa simply on the basis of the reputation of a few veteran leaders imported from other parties, mainly the Congress, was understandably dashed in the elections. Lacking a popular base and an alternative platform, the TMC was unable to win a single seat in the February elections.

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TMC sources said that the party organization in Goa is now in a sorry state. The party leader in Goa, Kiran Kandolkar, said the I-PAC of TMC political consultant Prashant Kishor abandoned him after the elections.

Many politicians and civil society members who had joined the TMC have now either left the party or withdrawn from party programs.

Luizinho Faleiro, who was named vice-president of the TMC and rewarded with a place in the Rajya Sabha, is reportedly still unhappy with the party’s strategy. Faleio had withdrawn from the electoral contest at the last moment, to the great embarrassment of the party.

The moral of the TMC experience in Goa is that a few “big names” alone cannot bring electoral success in the absence of proper strategy and programs.

The party needs to take the lesson to the northeast, where it has so far followed the same pattern of Goa, which political observers say would do more harm to Congress than expand the TMC’s base in the region.

“Instead of depending on big names, the TMC should focus on building the party organization from the bottom up, just like the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) does in Assam by participating in the municipal elections,” said said Hafiz, a lawyer and political commentator based in Guwahati. Rashid Choudhury.

The AAP fielded candidates in 39 of the 60 municipal wards for the upcoming Guwahati Municipality elections. Last month, the party won one seat each in the civic polls of Tinsukia and Lakhimpur, securing its electoral presence in Assam.

“We have trained units in all districts of Assam. For the GMC elections, about 160 people had applied for the tickets, out of which we nominated 39,” said Bhaben Chowdhury, Assam State Coordinator of the AAP and National Council Member.

On the other hand, the TMC did not contest the elections of local bodies.

Apart from Assam, the Bengal-based party is also trying to spread its wings in Tripura and Meghalaya.

Trinamool Congress National General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee will travel to Meghalaya on May 3 to hold an organizational meeting with the party’s heads of state. In the Hill States, the TMC became the main opposition party without contesting the election when 12 of 17 Congress lawmakers, including former chief minister Mukul Sangma, joined the party in November last year.

“A few of those who joined the TMC could win elections next year because of their personal popularity. But this will not help the party organization to develop. In the past, the TMC won a few seats in the Manipur and Tripura assembly elections. The party organization in the two states collapsed once its MPs deserted it,” said Dipankar Roy, editor of The Meghalayan, a Shillong-based daily.

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He said that with a lukewarm approach, the party would end up splitting the opposition votes.

Tripura is the only state in the region where the party has attempted to grow organically, launching a series of street protests against the state’s BJP government ahead of municipal elections last year.

In the municipal elections, the party only won one seat in the municipality of Ambassa, but it garnered around 24% of the vote to claim the second position ahead of the CPI(M).

The party’s Tripura campaign, however, has lost its breath since then. Much to the party’s disappointment, two rebel BJP MPs, Sudip Roy Barman and Ashish Kumar Saha, who had been in contact with the TMC, changed their minds and joined the Congress in February this year.

The duo reportedly did not join the TMC as they did not give leadership assurance to Roy Barman. Barman was reportedly unhappy with the way the TMC banked on Sushmita Dev, a politician from the Bengali-dominated Barak Valley in Assam, to make his presence felt in Tripura.

Incidentally, it is Sushmita’s father, former Congress leader, late Santosh Mohan Dev, who is often blamed for the party’s electoral decline in Tripura.

The 1988 assembly election was the last time the party managed to form a government. But that year, the election campaign was marred by pre-election violence in which more than 100 people were killed.

The CPI(M) blamed then Union Minister and head of Congress’s Tripura poll, Santosh Mohan, for the violence, earning him the infamous moniker ‘Santras (terror) Mohan’.

Congress and the Tripura Upajati Juba Samiti (TUJS) alliance, which won 30 of 60 seats, formed a coalition government led by Sudhir Ranjan Majumdar following a disputed election.

However, before completing his term, Majumdar resigned in 1992 over differences within the coalition. Samir Ranjan Barman, father of Sudip Roy Barman, took over as the new chief minister, the last in Congress to lead a government in Tripura.

Samir Ranjan Barman was a close associate of Dev. But her son has now refused to play second fiddle to Dev’s daughter in the TMC.