Thursday, September 21, 2023

Trinamool banks on development plank to offset Congress-Left challenge

Himalayan Paths

By Anurag Dey
Kolkata, March 30 (IANS)
Since coming to power in West Bengal five years back, the Trinamool Congress has been steamrolling opponents in successive electoral battles. But Mamata Banerjee’s party faces a formidable challenge in the upcoming assembly polls in the wake of a raging bribery scandal and the teaming up of the Congress and Left Front, say analysts.

But they also feel TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor, Trinamool’s organisational might, the effects of the development projects and social security schemes implemented by the Banerjee government, especially in the countryside, could be Trinamool’s biggest pluses.

After dismantling the Left Front in 2011 with a brute majority, the Trinamool has scripted grand successes in the panchayat, civic, and Lok Sabha polls. In the 2014 general elections, it bagged 34 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats, pushing traditional foes Left Front and ally-turned-opponent Congress to the brink.

Even as the Trinamool campaigns on its development plank, analysts feel the Congress-Left combination may play a catalytic role in the polls, billed by many as one of the most crucial in the history of the eastern state.

“The biggest threat facing Trinamool is the Congress-Left tie-up, which has given a new dimension to Bengal polity often characterised by apolitical untouchability. Besides charging up the Congress-Left Front workers, it has given credence to the opposition’s bid to provide an alternative to the Trinamool,” political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty told IANS.

While the tie-up has been plagued by delivery pangs and bickerings, Chakraborty asserts it can be a game changer, especially against the backdrop of the Narada sting operation in which several Trinamool biggies have been purportedly caught accepting bribes.

“Trinamool’s electoral fortunes remained unscathed by the Saradha chit fund scam because of its timely damage control. That included setting up a corpus to indemnify the ruined investors. But the sting operation has come like a bolt from the blue,” said Chakraborty.

He pointed to the damaging remarks by several Trinamool leaders, including veteran MP Dinesh Trivedi, who prescribed that party colleagues purportedly caught in the scandal should “sit at home” till they “come out clean” in a probe.

Though Banerjee and her party have rubbished the sting as “doctored” and have been constantly ridiculing the Congress-Left accord, the jitters within the Trinamool are apparent.

Analyst Bimal Shankar Nanda, howver, stresses on the TINA factor, as well as the Banerjee government’s micro-level development plank.

“The anti-incumbency, the sting operation, all pose a threat. But the one thing that not only nullifies these threats, but is likely to play a major role is the TINA factor,” Nanda told IANS.

“Notwithstanding the charges levelled by the opposition, a large section of voters, especially the rural populace, are still unwilling to give another chance either to the Left or the Congress, while the BJP is still several years away from being a force to reckon with,” he said, referring to Banerjee’s social security schemes.

Besides being “unabashed” in wooing the minorities, Banerjee has introduced social security schemes like the ‘Kanyashree’ (aimed at stopping marriages of minor girls and inspiring them to complete school education) and ‘Khadya Sathia’ (providing subsidised food grain at Rs.2 a kilo to a large section of the population). She has also been showering sops, including scholarships, bicycles and automotive loans.

While a factional feud, especially at the grassroots, has become a bane for the party, Banerjee’s decision to field turncoats, especially former Marxist leader Abdur Razzak Molla, also has triggered protests in several constituencies.

At the other end, the reintegration into the party mainstream of Mukul Roy — considered the architect of its electoral victories “has come at the most opportune time”.

“The current election undoubtedly is Trinamool’s biggest challenge since 2011 especially in the face of the Congress-Left tie-up. But with Roy’s re-emergence and riding on its organisational might and the oppositions’ organisational deficiency, the party can manage to sail through again,” analyst Anil Kumar Jana told IANS.

Considered Banerjee’s right hand man, Roy had become a pariah within the Trinamool following his grilling by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the Saradha scam. Having mended fences after nearly a year, the Rajya Sabha member is now the party’s vice president.

Jana feels Trinamool will not be able to repeat its 2011 performance, when it bagged 184 seats in partnership with the Congress.

“It will win with a reduced majority,” added Jana.

But the Trinamool is gung-ho about bettering its 2011 showing.

“Despite the conspiracies hatched by the opposition, or the collusion between the CPI-M, Congress and the BJP, Trinamool will return to power on the sheer strength of the development work undertaken by the government in the last five years,” Trinamool Lok Sabha member Sultan Ahmed told IANS.

“Anti-incumbency, or the charges of corruption, are a mirage created by the opposition and they will not cut ice with the people,” Ahmed asserted.

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