The Trinamool Congress is set for an organisational overhaul irrespective of its fortunes in the 2016 Assembly elections in West Bengal, the campaign for which has been the most bitter in recent history. A senior leader said prime among the changes will be chief minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee’s increased involvement in the party’s actions.
“Over the past five years, the chief minister hasn’t visited the TMC office. After becoming CM, she had left the party’s functions to senior leader Mukul Roy and (state education minister and party secretary general) Partha Chatterjee,” he said.
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A source close to the chief minister, however, said the series of corruption allegations against senior leaders – including Roy and cabinet minister Firhad Hakim – had dented her confidence in her top leadership. “The party was her life; she created it out of nothing. When she was younger, she once had an argument with her family and slept here for a few days; it was her second home. For her to have ignored the party office, she has realised was a mistake,” said the source.
The TMC had first been hit by the Sarada chit fund scam, in which a number of its leaders were alleged beneficiaries of the Rs 15,000 crore chit fund. Days before the election, its credibility was tested by the Narada sting, which purportedly saw key members of the TMC leadership allegedly taking money in exchange of favours. Inevitably, the ‘“From Narada to Saradha” slogan became the battle cry for the opposition.
“If TMC were to come to power in these elections, we will not come with the majority that we once enjoyed. It’ll be a government that no longer has the advantage of a clean slate. If the party doesn’t mend its ways, if those who have been accused of corruption aren’t punished, we will not to power ever again. Didi ruled the party with an iron fist before becoming CM and she needs to do that,” said the source.
There are others in the government who suggest that the administration, particularly in the districts, had misled her. “She visited every district and met everyone. But the problem is, every time she came, the district administration put on a show for her.
“There were dawats prepared and the journalists she came with wrote glowing pieces about all the work being done in the district. The party’s district body and the administration painted a picture for her, which wasn’t always true,” said a member of the incumbent cabinet.
The TMC, meanwhile, is confident of victory and there are already discussions on the next state cabinet. New entrant and former journalist Prabir Ghosal and Dinhata MLA Udayan Ghosh – who switched over from Forward Bloc – are among those being suggested for key cabinet posts.