ON THE ground floor of the West Bengal State Government Employees Federation office in Midnapore town, near the ground where Union Home Minister Amit Shah is scheduled to address a public meeting Saturday, a group of TMC workers sat on plastic chairs, their eyes glued to the TV. What they saw was a stream of leaders quitting their party.
The low buzz inside that small office captured the mood within the ruling party in the state: despair, anger, speculation, criticism and confusion.
After heavyweight leader Suvendu Adhikari and MLA Jitendra Tiwari resigned from the party, the exodus continued Friday with two more MLAs, Silbhadra Dutta and Banashree Maity, and minority cell general secretary Kabirul Islam walking away from the TMC.
And although there was a twist late Friday night, with Tiwari claiming that he is still with the TMC, the verdict in the Midnapore party office was clear: It is time for introspection.
“Can’t you see what is happening? It is true that Suvendu is a big leader. The party should have resolved his grievances. So many people are leaving. But I am still with the party. I have seen Mamata Banerjee and I think she will be able to tide over this crisis. There is time. But it is true that there are many grievances and the BJP is taking advantage of it,” said Sukhen Samaddar, a TMC worker.
Like Samaddar, TMC workers and leaders have been putting up a brave front. But they also acknowledge that Shah’s visit may be a key milestone in the turf tussle that has unfolded with just a few months to go for the Assembly polls.
Shah is scheduled to reach Kolkata late night with Adhikari, who has been given Z-category security by the Centre, before reaching Midnapore for the meeting. On Sunday, he is scheduled to visit Visva Bharati in Shantiniketan followed by a roadshow in Bolpur.
In a tweet posted in Bengali, Shah said that he is “eager to interact with my brothers and sisters of West Bengal”. The TMC leadership, meanwhile, held an emergency meeting at the Kalighat residence of Mamata Banerjee.
With a picture of Banerjee hanging on the wall behind him, Subrata Sarkar, 67, a district general secretary in Paschim Midnapore, said: “We are asking everyone not to panic. Suvendu is a popular leader and a lot of his ‘Anugamis’ (followers) will leave the party. It is also true that leaders and workers have grievances against PK (Prashant Kishor). But like you, we are waiting for tomorrow… to see who joins and what impact it will have on the party.”
At another TMC office about 1 km away, Nirmalya Chakraborty, councillor and district vice president of Trinamool Youth Congress, which is headed by Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek, echoed the party line: “Good riddance.”
“They became what they are through Mamata Banerjee and the party. Those MLAs and others you will see leaving tomorrow were exposed by PK and his team. They know they will not get tickets in the Assembly polls,” said Nirmalya, who was also glued to the TV.
The workers gathered around agreed. “Senior leader Mukul Roy left the party, nothing happened. Suvendu is leaving the party, nothing will happen,” said Sheikh Rocky, a 24-year-old party worker.
At Mirabazar, a 20-minute drive away, the CPM party office remained open, with just three persons inside, all watching TV. “We are watching and laughing. See how the leaders are leaving TMC. Both TMC and BJP are duping the people of Bengal. But now, TMC has met its match,” said Mohammed Jallauddin, 60, a party worker.
On Thursday, incidentally, CPM’s Haldia MLA Tapasi Mondol had hinted at joining the BJP.
Back in the heart of Midnapore town, several BJP flags have come up. Shah is expected to first visit the Siddheshwari Kali Mandir in Habibpur. He is also scheduled to have lunch with a farmer’s family in Balichuri village along with BJP leaders. After the public meeting, he will return to Kolkata and hold meetings with BJP state leaders.
At the venue of Shah’s meeting, the Midnapore College ground, BJP leaders and police personnel were gathered in huddles. One hoarding that came up Friday read: ‘Itihaser Dorgoray Medinipur’ (Midnapur At the Doorstep of History).