The Trinamool Congress’s Kerala unit is gearing up to contest the elections in Kerala, although the central leadership hasn’t formally announced its sanction yet. Trinamool Congress leaders in Kerala say they are moving ahead with plans to contest all 140 assembly seats, in fact. Manoj Shankaran, president of the Kerala unit, said over phone that they have been holding rallies in one city after the other. On Monday, they held a large rally in Kochi in preparation for “Trinamool Congress candidates”.
Asked if he had the sanction of the Trinamool Congress central leadership and of party chief Mamata Banerjee to contest the elections, Shankaran said, “Yes, we have spoken to some central leaders and Mamata Banerjee herself has said that she would come to Kerala to address rallies. We are moving ahead, and there is no question of going back now.”
The party’s national spokesperson Derek O Brien, however, said in Kolkata that the party has not taken any decision on Kerala polls yet. At the root of the controversy seems to be a press conference by Mamata in which she had announced her party’s candidate list for Bengal in the first week of March. She had hit out at the “unholy, unprincipled” Congress-CPM understanding in West Bengal and highlighted how the two were pitted against each other in Kerala.
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She had also disclosed that she plans to visit Kerala and address a number of public rallies to expose what she described as the “two faces of the CPM and the Congress”. “I want to give a message to the people of Kerala against this hypocrisy,” she had said.
She never specified if the Trinamool Congress would actually contest the polls in Kerala. Sources in Bengal, however, guessed Kerala that TMC leaders might have taken her remarks as a go-ahead to contest. TMC functionaries in Kerala said the election scenario began to unfold in quick succession after that. Larger-than-life cutouts of Mamata began coming up at key points. TMC leaders sat down and began compiling a probable candidates’ list. The Kerala TMC also chalked up several schemes, including one for unemployed youths. Kerala leaders stressed the ground is “favourable” for the Trinamool to contest.
Shankaran and leaders such as C T S Nair and Bharat Makkada said they would travel to Kolkata next week to “wrap things up”. “Already rallies have been held in Thiruvanthahapuram and Kochi and the response has been tremendous,” Shankaran said. “We are sending daily reports about our activities to the leadership in Bengal. If the central leadership does not clear our decision, we will have no alternative but to go ahead on our own. The Kerala state unit has the mandate to do that.”
A workforce of over 3.5 million from Bengal are engaged in various kinds of jobs in Kerala, and the Trinamool had been campaigning for their welfare. “If Didi does not give us permission to fight the polls, we will face mobs who will attack us and chase us out of Kerala,” said one Kerala leader. The party is ready with a list of candidates to submit to the Trinamool Congress central committee in Delhi.
But a Kolkata leader said the urge to contest may have been driven by considerations other than likely performance.
“Didi is, of course, willing to go to Kerala and address a couple of meetings but so far she has not given any indication of joining the race,” the leader said. “But the Kerala leaders seem to feel that if the Trinamool Congress does not contest the Kerala polls on the party’s own symbol this time, it will miss out on a golden opportunity to make inroads into a southern state.”