The Trinamool Congress (TMC) stormed into the Northeast political scene in November last year when 12 legislators of the Congress in Meghalaya, led by former chief minister Mukul Sangma, switched sides to the Mamata Banerjee-led party. Overnight, the TMC, which had no footprint in the state, became the principal Opposition in Meghalaya, edging out the Congress from the House.
However, six months later, the initial euphoria around the party in Meghalaya may have worn off. At least four of the 12 MLAs who crossed over are rethinking their decision, concerned about the party’s “organisation and acceptance” at the grassroots. They are contemplating joining the ruling-National People’s Party (NPP) or its ally, the United Democratic Party (UDP). The BJP is a junior partner in the NPP-led alliance.
“Many had seen a new alternative and hope in the TMC, but over the months, the mobilisation and organisation at the grassroots level in the party have been extremely slow,” said a TMC leader who did not wish to be identified. “When a new party is launched, you have to be proactive… somehow, this does not seem to be the case with the TMC… in many rural areas, block and district presidents are yet to be announced.”
This lack of organisation has led to the popularity of the party slowly dwindling, he added. “In December, there was a big rally… but the months that have followed have been quiet, roles within the party were not assigned for a while and there was a delay in getting the party office ready too,” said the leader.
Another TMC leader pointed out that the tag of being a ‘Bengali’ party in Meghalaya, where local tribals have often sparred with the Bengali community, also did not augur well for the TMC, which is headquartered in West Bengal. “Especially in the rural areas, people perceive it as a ‘Bengali’ party… so gaining acceptance will require a lot of work,” he said. “Ultimately we have to think of what our people want too,” he said.
Ahead of the state Assembly elections slated for early next year, these rumblings within the TMC suggest that the party’s road to consolidation may not be that easy.
However, top TMC leaders played down the discontent. Former chief minister Mukul Sangma said he was aware of these developments. “Two to four friends had personally indicated that they were considering other possibilities,” Sangma told the press on Wednesday, hinting that party tickets may not be handed out to all sitting legislators. “It is not necessary that all sitting MLAs will be given tickets. So we are alerting everyone well ahead in time. We want to open opportunities for new blood… fresh candidates,” he said.
TMC Meghalaya president Charles Pyngrope said setting up a new party always takes time. About the “Bengali” tag, he said that it did not really matter. “How does it matter where a party was born? Ultimately, we are getting people from the state to represent it,” he said.