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Mamata seeks to emerge as Oppn’s pivot against BJP

With her regular visits outside state, Trinamool positions itself as alternative to Congress

Written by Santanu Chowdhury | Kolkata |
December 3, 2021 4:15:56 am
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will campaign for our candidates on December 16 . (PTI)

Amid the continuing unravelling of the Congress party, Mamata Banerjee seems to be rushing in to stake her party Trinamool Congress (TMC)’s claim as the lead Opposition player’s space being vacated by the Congress.

From cold-shouldering Congress chief Sonia Gandhi by refraining from meeting her during her recent visit to the national capital to taking a blistering swipe at Rahul Gandhi in Mumbai on Wednesday, the Trinamool supremo has been seeking to emerge as the Opposition’s pivot against the BJP at the national level.

Distancing her party from the Congress, Banerjee has been reaching out to other Opposition parties in a move to pitchfork the TMC into the centrestage of the national Opposition politics.

After trouncing the BJP and getting re-elected as Chief Minister of West Bengal for the third consecutive time in May this year, Banerjee has been criss-crossing the country, meeting a slew of Opposition leaders in a bid to establish her leadership in stitching up an overarching Opposition alliance against the BJP-led NDA government.

Unlike her earlier such meetings, Banerjee’s efforts this time are not restricted to only visiting Opposition leaders, as her party continues to expand its footprints across the country by inducting leaders from various parties – especially the Congress.

Following her party’s landslide victory in the Bengal Assembly polls, Banerjee had visited the national capital in July. She had then met Congress president Sonia Gandhi at her residence where her son and ex-Congress chief Rahul Gandhi was also present. In August, Banerjee had also attended a virtual meeting of Opposition leaders that was convened by the Congress president. In that meeting, she had proposed that the Opposition leaders should keep their personal agendas aside, even as she had appealed to all the Opposition parties to unite against the BJP.

After winning the Bhabanipur Assembly bypoll on October 3, Banerjee has become increasingly more confident and ambitious, adopting an aggressive approach.

Banerjee visited Goa on October 28 to kickstart its election campaign in the coastal state. To make inroads into Goa politics, the TMC inducted its former CM and Congress leader Luizinho Faleiro. He was recently nominated as TMC Rajya Sabha member.

In the BJP-ruled Goa bound for the Assembly poll, the TMC also managed to get Goa Forward Party (GFP) working president Kiran Kandolkar – who was number two in his party after its chief Vijai Sardesai – along with 40 other GFP functionaries, including sarpanches of five villages from the Assembly constituencies of Tivim and Aldona in North Goa.

On October 25, the TMC inducted two senior Congress leaders of Uttar Pradesh ,Rajeshpati Tripathi, an ex-MLC, and Laliteshpati Tripathi, a former UP Congress vice-president and an ex-MLA. Rajeshpati and Laliteshpati are, respectively, the grandson and the great-grandson of late UP Congress stalwart and ex-CM Kamalapati Tripathi.

With Banerjee’s nephew and party national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee playing a key role in the TMC’s expansion plan, the party has over the past few months sought to strengthen its organisation in several Northeastern states such as Tripura, Meghalaya and Assam.

It has also roped in a number of high-profile leaders in recent months, including Sushmita Dev from the Congress and ex-Union minister Babul Supriyo.

During Banerjee’s visit to Delhi last month, the TMC clinched the induction of Congress leaders Kirti Azad and Ashok Tanwar along with former JD(U) MP Pavan Varma.

She had then said she was open to extending help to Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav for the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls.

During her visit to Delhi last month, however, Banerjee was cold to the Congress, deciding against meeting Gandhis, She had then met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to invite him to inaugurate her government’s flagship investment conclave, Bengal Global Business Summit (BGBS), scheduled for April next year.

The Congress recently suffered another blow at the hands of the TMC, with Meghalaya witnessing a political upheaval. Former CM Mukul Sangma and 11 other Congress MLAs switched to the TMC, making it the principal Opposition party in the state.

All these moves have clearly been calibrated as part of the TMC’s plan to position itself as an alternative to the Congress and to project Banerjee as a key leader of the Opposition alliance.

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