Folded Hands, Zero Slip-ups: The Mamata Makeover That Has TMC Leaders on Toes, Opposition Confused
Mamata Banerjee's thought-out reactions seem to be a result of new political strategy drafted by Prashant Kishor as she prepares to defend her bastion from an aggressive onslaught by the BJP.
File photo of Mamata Banerjee. (PTI)
Kolkata: When Left leaders at Esplanade in Kolkata shouted slogans of ‘Go back didi’ after Mamata Banerjee’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Jaunary 11, they expected to be chased away by the police and a typical “angry didi” reaction from the West Bengal Chief Minister.
Instead, Banerjee stood there with folded hands, trying to convince the protesters and opposition leaders that it was her constitutional obligation to meet the prime minister and that she has not changed her stand against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Her thought-out reactions and 'makeover' seem to be a result of a new political strategy drafted by Prashant Kishor and his firm Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) as she prepares to defend her bastion from an aggressive onslaught by the BJP.
People in Banerjee’s party Trinamul Congress (TMC) and in the opposition camps say these are not signature Mamata Banerjee reactions in the face of opposition heckling.
When Congress chief Sonia Gandhi called for a meeting of opposition leaders to discuss the current political situation, Citizenship Act and violence at university campuses, Banerjee, after initially agreeing to attend after being convinced by her party MPs in Delhi, changed her decision later.
“Skipping the opposition’s meet was also Prashant Kishor’s suggestion to Banerjee because he felt the party cannot have two different stands on the state and national levels. Congress is against us in Bengal ut in Delhi it is asking us to attend the meeting. A specific instruction was given to all that no one should depend on state machinery to win the elections. If anyone will try to do that, he or she will not get the ticket,” a TMC leader told News18.
Not just this, in the last six months, the TMC chief has suffered no slips of tongue expect for the ‘UN remark’ on CAA, which she later claimed was taken out of context. The most striking aspect was the missing key leaders (at least in the front rows) when Banerjee participated in anti-NRC, CAA rallies across Kolkata. She chose to surround herself with common people instead.
The TMC has, in the last six months, quietly implemented ‘system driven assessment’ in the party to identify ‘non-performing assets’ and there are tell-tale signs of things being according to a definite plan and script.
For instance, in one of TMC’s internal review meetings recently, where at least 100 MLAs, local leaders, booth presidents and districts presidents were present, a TMC legislature was asked to explain why he spends such less time with the villagers in Cooch Behar. The MLA in question was shocked as he had no idea his party work on the ground level was being monitored by team Prashant Kishor.
Another district president was equally shocked when he learnt that Banerjee had full report of his entire four-month-long working assessment on the ground level, including the days spent and time duration of his work for the party, its workers and the villagers. Banerjee was allegedly also briefed about who all he met, the problems he faced and the solution he had given.
“Such detailed assessment of party workers was not there in the party before. Earlier, leaders would come and tell Banerjee they have completed all the tasks assigned to them. There was no one to crosscheck it. Now it is a system-driven assessment. The logic is simple. Those who will perform will be rewarded,” said a TMC legislature who was present in the internal meeting.
As part of the new mandates, party leaders have been strictly asked to ‘visibly change their lifestyle’, which includes luxury cars, giving contractual jobs to relatives, expensive gadgets, indulging in violence and hobnobbing with the district administration.
“Our media wing was also streamlined. A fixed team of leaders (good speakers) were selected who can participate in debates on behalf of the party. Not the least, before and after the public shows/interviews/television debates, they will be briefed and their assessment will be taken on where they went wrong, where they spoke well and what improvement they required,” a TMC district president said, adding that such strict initiatives are a must ahead of the crucial municipal polls this year and assembly elections in 2021.
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