Why did Mamata Banerjee put Trinamool Congress' expansion plan on hold?

Sayantan Ghosh
01 Nov 2022
Why did Mamata Banerjee put Trinamool Congress' expansion plan on hold?

Kolkata: The Trinamool Congress led by Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is going through massive turmoil politically and internally. The party and its leaders are under several probes by the central agencies. Many TMC leaders are in jail, and across West Bengal, protests are taking place against several teachers’ recruitment scams. Mamata Banerjee has taken several important decisions to tackle this ongoing setback for the party. The TMC's decision to pause its national expansion plan is, however, the most crucial decision.

A senior party leader who did not want to be named said, "While every TMC state committee is working independently in its respective state, we are currently unable to regularly coordinate and communicate with the other state leaders. Our starting point and top priority in West Bengal. The CPIM, Congress, and Bharatiya Janata Party are constantly coordinating to damage Mamata Banerjee's reputation. The leadership feels that right now Bengal and the upcoming Panchayat elections should be our only priorities."

The Trinamool Congress sources have confirmed that this decision was not solely influenced by the allegations of graft against the party's top officials or the ongoing debate over the teachers' recruitment scam. The choice is motivated by a number of additional internal problems and financial limitations.

Growing infighting

The Trinamool Congress has been experiencing increasing infighting amid internal strife. First off, there are two camps within the party: one is made up of Mamata Banerjee's close lieutenants, and the other is made up of her nephew, Abhishek Banerjee. Senior TMC lawmaker Tapas Roy recently criticised party MP and Lok Sabha leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay. Over a period of more than four days, the leaders repeatedly attacked one another in front of the media, but the party took no action. The TMC is reportedly involved in infighting across the state, primarily in the districts, according to reports from several Bengali vernacular newspapers.

A sizable portion of party insiders thinks that many people are dissatisfied and wary of the future as a result of the growing allegations of corruption against the party leaders. The majority of the leaders are attempting to control themselves within their region in such a situation.

A senior TMC MLA on the condition of anonymity said, “Infighting is inevitable because these things take place whenever a political party experiences a crisis. The BJP used its financial clout to remove several TMC leaders prior to the 2021 Bengal assembly elections. They are attempting these tricks once more today. Our leadership has made it clear that we are to maintain our attention on our own constituencies and regions in this situation. Because of this, no leader can currently handle additional responsibilities from other states.”

Fund crunch

The TMC sources have also confirmed that the party is experiencing severe financial difficulties. Mamata Banerjee's party spent more than 48 crores during the 2022 Goa assembly elections, which is 62% more than what the other parties spent. The TMC hired I - PAC for the national expansion plan. Prashant Kishor, a poll strategist, was a member of the organisation at the time this deal was made, but after the elections, he cut ties with I-PAC and is now pursuing his own political aspirations independently.

The TMC leaders claim that despite spending significant sums of money on the campaigns in Goa and Tripura, those states' results fell short of expectations. In a similar vein, the party is also devoting a sizable sum to maintaining the entire I-PAC team. While the organisation is implementing its expansion strategy in states like Meghalaya and Tripura, the party is unable to concentrate on these states, which is putting additional strain on the organization's financial resources.

A TMC MP on the condition of anonymity said, “We are the only political party currently which has a team like I-PAC with us but unfortunately we are unable to utilise their abilities completely. This is also putting massive financial pressure on us because there is an agreement between the party and the organisation.”

A number of TMC leaders, according to some party sources, have stated that it is not a good idea to spend money on maintaining such a large team for an unproductive strategy when the party is under so much pressure in Bengal.

Strategical void

Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress is also suffering from a strategic void. The party lacks any strategy in terms of expanding in other states. The work in Goa and Tripura took place based on the groundwork done by I–PAC but in terms of building a strategy in the states through networking was absent.

In Tripura, the party failed to hold back on its own organisation. Starting from all the key faces who jumped from the Bharatiya Janata party and other political parties have now returned to the BJP. On the other hand, the key fight is going on between the BJP and regional TIPRA MOTHA. The party could not reach out to all the sections of people like the tribals and even the Bengali-speaking population as a whole.

According to a TMC leader who has been working in Tripura, "The party is losing credibility in the state after the corruption charges came against Partha Chatterjee and others in Bengal. The BJP is campaigning that we are a party which is utterly corrupt. But currently, we do not have that much organisational strength to counter this allegation in Tripura."

However, the situation of the TMC in Meghalaya is a bit better. Despite the Bengal leaders not looking after the states as Meghalaya has former CM Mukul Sangma as the leader and also has opposition party status, the party is working on the ground.

The TMC sources informed that the much-discussed organisational branches in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and other states are majorly non-functional as the party lack a strategy.

Leadership crisis

The leadership crisis that the Trinamool Congress is dealing with is yet another significant problem. Apart from Mamata Banerjee and Abhishek Banerjee, the party has no other leaders. TMC will require powerful leaders and state-specific leaders for the expansion plan. But because the expansion plan is stalled, all the leaders who joined the party from other political parties, primarily the BJP from other states, are becoming ineffective.

A senior leader who did not want to be named said, “Bengal leaders are in charge of every state organisation. Because they don't reside in these regions, these leaders have neither the time nor the knowledge to care about the states. Because local leadership finds it difficult to get in touch with Mamata or Abhishek Banerjee and because no other leader can be relied upon or is in a position to provide assistance, the state units are starting to fall apart.”

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