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Checking Internal Rift, Focus on Tea Industry & Local Issues: How Mamata Plans to Decode Malda Mystery​

File photo of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

File photo of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

The Trinamool has never won any seats in Malda till date, except that after the 2016 assembly elections, four MLAs shifted to the party, including one Independent, one from the CPI (M) and two from the Congress.


Sujit Nath

Kolkata: Three weeks after her Bankura party meet, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee held a mega interactive session with more than 80,000 Trinamool Congress (TMC) booth-level workers on Tuesday in Malda district with an eye on all the 54 assembly constituencies in the entire North Bengal. The choice of venue was no accident.

Mamata addressed the meet at Malda’s Chhota Sujapur area along the national highway. Most in the political fraternity are not surprised with the setting considering the fact that in 2016, of the 12 assembly seats in the district, Trinamool Congress won none.

Also, in last year's Lok Sabha polls, the TMC lost both the seats here (covering eight assembly constituencies) to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). So, the Trinamool has never won any seats in Malda till date, except that after the 2016 assembly elections, four MLAs shifted to the party, including one Independent, one from the CPI (M) and two from the Congress.

Perturbed by the TMC’s performance in Malda and in entire north Bengal, Mamata admitted before a huge gathering, “We never won any seat from here. I don’t know why I am not acceptable to the people of Malda. I don’t know what the problem is. I think we are lacking somewhere. There is a lack of coordination among the party leaders. I would like to tell all the party leaders to work jointly without any differences. When will our party leaders in Malda be united? When? I saw huge participation of people at Mausam Noor’s public meet...but she lost despite being a Muslim. Don’t think I am not aware why she had lost. I would like to ask all my party leaders here in Malda to work together. Let’s fight back to win Malda.”

The TMC chief sounded out a warning to betrayers within the party. "I know some people are working on an understanding to help the Congress and BJP win one seat each. I would like to request my booth workers to work hard so that we will be able to work more in Malda. Murshidabad is restored. We are winning all the seats there. I hope we will also win Malda this time," Mamata said while distributing party tasks among leaders to avoid any collusion among them.

The only Lok Sabha seat where the BJP failed to win was Malda South, which was retained by the Congress for the third time.

In 2014, the BJP’s vote share in north Bengal was around 22 per cent, but it increased to 46 per cent in 2019. After the poll schedule was announced last year, both Narendra Modi and Mamata Banerjee sounded their poll bugle from north Bengal region on March 3, 2019. While Modi addressed his first rally in Siliguri, Mamata chose Dinhata in Cooch Behar to kick off the canvassing.

Both were aware that the area would hold the key to taking their tally up or down.

Though the TMC performed poorly in north Bengal, it managed to retain Old Malda, English Bazaar municipalities and one Zila Parishad in Malda. This is the platform which Mamata wants to use to take her party to the next level by mobilising the ground workers to give the BJP a tough fight in the 2021 assembly polls.

Knowing well that north Bengal helped the BJP to increase its tally from two to 18 seats in the previous Lok Sabha elections, the CM is on a mission to plug loopholes that have led to her party's poor performance.

“Today’s meeting was very crucial for us because BJP surprisingly got 12-15 per cent Muslim votes in the border areas, which helped the saffron brigade secure eight seats (out of BJP's total haul of 18) from north Bengal," a senior TMC official said. "We are not in a mood to give this space to the BJP and therefore we have decided to re-mobilise our ground workers in each and every block in North Bengal. In the last Lok Sabha polls the situation was different, but now people all over the country are agitated against the BJP due to the citizenship issue. The recent riots at Delhi and detention of leaders in Kashmir are also giving wrong signals to the people across the country. In the next 75 days, we have planned to visit and meet each and every voter in north Bengal with our manifesto and agenda. Hopefully, we will be able to corner the BJP this time.”

A close examination of the TMC’s failure in north Bengal revealed that the party’s internal rift is giving a platform to the BJP to make significant advances in the region which has a Muslim population of nearly 50 per cent.

After 2016, many leaders from the CPI (M) and Congress jumped to the TMC and formed their own factions, locally known as the ‘Congress-Trinamool Lobby’ and ‘CPI (M)-Trinamool Lobby’.

Some of the local-level leaders switched to the Trinamool to save themselves from police action as they are linked to cattle smuggling, fake currency rackets, drug rackets, etc. It is often noticed that people from these two lobbies are fighting among themselves over area domination while running the rackets.

“This is having a direct impact on the party’s performances. Our party supremo Mamata di has already send a stern message that she will not tolerate it if anyone is found indulging in anti-social activities and even threatened them that they will be sacked. Because of severe internal rift, Malda became a dark spot for the TMC. Anything happens in Malda, it has its effect on entire north Bengal. But we have made elaborate plans and we are certain that the BJP is going to suffer a massive setback in entire north Bengal,” a senior TMC leader said.

“Another area, where Mamata has plans to pay special attention is the ‘tea industry’. Fixing minimum wage for tea workers was an issue highlighted by the BJP and it got a good response from the tea workers. We need to tap that area. As far as the hills are concerned, we are not worried because the Gorkhas have now understood that the BJP is fooling them for the past few years in the name of statehood,” he added.

In the 2016 assembly polls, the BJP’s vote share was 10.2 per cent and in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections it went up to 40.3 per cent because of Hindus gravitating towards it. In the last three years, the saffron party has managed to create religious polarisation in Bengal and use that in its favour.

A close analysis reveals that from the 2011 assembly polls to the ones in 2016, the Left Front vote share dropped by 9.88 per cent, and from the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to those last year, its vote share further plummeted to nearly 16 per cent.

However, the Congress vote share from 2011 to 2016 the assembly polls increased from 8.91 per cent to 12.3 per cent, but it fell drastically in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections (9.6 %) while last year it managed to secure only 5 per cent.

Considering these facts, Mamata is chalking out her plans with more emphasis on ‘Banglar Barta’ on April 20 to May 10 involving all the panchayat, municipalities, ward cluster level and booth workers in north Bengal to resolve the local issues. This will be in addition to a grand ceremony under the banner of ‘Nobin Boron Sabha’ to mark the joining of youths from the hills and tea gardens in the party.

“When will you stop fighting? If we continue to fight, then we will never be able to win. We have to fight jointly. I have given you many things. Now I am asking Malda from you,” Mamata said at the meeting.

TMC leader Colonel Diptanshu Chaudhary (retd), said, “The BJP is playing a political card through the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in Bengal. The most unfortunate part is they are instilling fear among the Muslims. This was evident with the riots in Delhi. People of Bengal under the leadership of our party chief are fully prepared to handle this evil force which is aiming to disturb the peace of Bengal. In Malda, we have got a very good response and we are hopeful to win all the seats this time.”

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