Prashant Kishor, the vice-president of NDA ally JD(U) and an election strategist who was roped in by the Trinamool Congress after the Lok Sabha results, on Wednesday met several TMC MPs, party spokespersons and some of the candidates who lost in the recent general elections for a discussion on matters that did not go in the party’s favour and the future messaging strategy to halt the BJP’s march in the state.
TMC was reduced to 22 seats this year from its 2014 tally of 34, with the BJP winning 18 seats with a mere 3 per cent difference in the number of votes polled by the two parties.
Most of the newly-elected MPs were present at the meeting, besides some former MPs who had lost the recent elections. Rajya Sabha leader Derek O’Brien was present, as were Diamond Harbour MP Abhishek Banerjee, Dum Dum MP Saugata Roy, Howrah MP Prasun Banerjee, Krishnanagar MP Mahua Moitra, Serampore MP Kalyan Banerjee and Kolkata North MP and Lok Sabha leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay.
According to TMC sources, the meeting was the first of many to come and involved both a stocktaking exercise on what did not work in the party’s favour and the future messaging strategy. However, it was a hush-hush affair with most MPs present at the meeting denying the same. Barasat MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar said, “I was not present, I was having dinner with my son.” O’Brien said, “There was no meeting.”
“It has been close to a month so there is a fair degree of clarity within the party about what went wrong. Didi’s recent statements are a clear indication of that. The first meeting of MPs and ex-MPs with Kishor was basically about analysing the LS results that would give him a starting point to base his strategy on. Everybody who was present has been asked to maintain strict secrecy,” said a source.
Sources said that some new MPs were deliberately kept out as they are still perceived to be “too close” to BJP leader Mukul Roy, who has engineered a near exodus from his former party since the election results were announced.
One of the decisions that the party has already taken is to diversify its panel of spokespersons with the inclusion of Moitra apart from Roy, Ghosh Dastidar and Bandyopadhyay. In the state, ministers Chandrima Bhattacharya, Bratya Basu, Suvendu Adhikari and Rajib Banerjee will speak for the party.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had claimed in a television interview that Kishor is helping the party pro bono as a “corporate social responsibility”.
In the Lok Sabha polls, he had worked with YSR Congress in Andhra Pradesh where the party scored a grand success with Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy replacing
N Chandrababu Naidu as the Chief Minister.