Kolkata: Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress in Bengal is facing repeated setbacks in several graft cases and illegal appointments. The TMC experienced two back-to-back setbacks on Tuesday. First, the ED detained TMC MLA Manik Bhattacharya in connection with the Primary Teacher Recruitment scam. Second, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Calcutta High Court, which found that the state government's appointment of the VC of Calcutta University was unlawful.
Dealing with the public perception, which is now tilting more and more against the party, is the main problem facing the TMC at the moment.
The TMC spokespersons have said nothing at all about the setbacks. However, insiders reported that everyone in the party, from the top brass to the lowest-level workers, is currently worried about the future. "We understand that overnight, every state resident won't turn against the party. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's persona and charisma are like magic. But the public perception is indeed being hampered by these repeated blows to our credibility," a senior TMC leader who wished to remain unnamed said.
The TMC and the Bengal government have both come under attack from the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.
Through the party's national leadership, the state BJP contacts the central government about every single issue and requests investigations from federal agencies like the CBI, ED, or NIA. The TMC leaders acknowledge that the party has been under intense pressure as a result of the BJP's ongoing attacks and involvement of the government's agencies. These methods also keep the leadership busy, which hinders the image-refreshing work.
Graft and beyond
Dealing with the graft allegations against its leaders is the main problem facing the TMC right now. The arrest of suspended TMC secretary general and cabinet minister Partha Chatterjee marked the beginning of the entire corruption investigation. Together with his alleged closed aide Arpita Mukherjee, he was detained by the enforcement directorate in connection with the alleged School Service Commission recruitment scam. The Trinamool Congress, Bengal politics, and chief minister Mamata Banerjee were all affected by this arrest.
Veteran TMC MP Saugata Roy recently said, “This kind of corruption has rarely happened in the whole of India. Even though former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad was in jail for a long time, not so many notes of Lalu were found. Earlier, Sukh Ram was the Union Minister. Two-three-four crore rupees have been recovered from them. This has not been seen anywhere. Partha's case is worse than Lalu and Sukhram’s case.”
Additionally, former SSC Chairman Ashok Saha and School Service Commission Advisor Shanti Prasad Sinha have been detained by Central agencies. Subiresh Bhattacharya, a former SSC chairman, and Kalyanmoy Ganguly, a former head of the West Bengal board of secondary education, were both detained by the CBI. These individuals were all extremely close to Partha Chatterjee or the TMC. Insiders confirmed that these appointments were political despite the party's insistence that they have nothing to do with these individuals. They are not government employees, which is why these appointments typically come from the party, according to a West Bengal government official who spoke on the record.
Girls and boys from lower-income or lower-middle-class families have been impacted by the entire teacher recruitment scam. This is the first time in Bengal's history that people have been directly impacted by a scam that has come to light. The Trinamool Congress insisted that numerous scams of this nature took place during the left's regime, but there is no evidence to support this claim. Since taking office, the Mamata Banerjee administration has not opened an investigation into any of these alleged crimes.
"While we're reaching out to the public and informing them about the BJP-led central government's misuse of agencies, These scams have directly impacted our voters. There is resentment and anger," said a TMC leader.
Anubrata Mondal, the president of the TMC's Birbhum district and a powerful member of the party, was also arrested in recent months by the CBI. Mamata Banerjee herself extended support to Mondal and instructed party members that Mandal should receive garlands upon his release. He was arrested for his alleged involvement in the cattle smuggling case. Even though the ordinary citizen is unaffected by this case, it has helped the opposition to support their claim that "everyone in the TMC is corrupt" in their criticism of the government.
The Supreme Court dealt the TMC government a blow this week by upholding the Calcutta High Court's ruling that the appointment or reappointment of the vice-chancellor of Calcutta University was unlawful because it did not receive the governor's approval. Calcutta University, which is located in Kolkata, the state's capital, is the largest state university in West Bengal. Despite being aware that this reappointment is against the rules, the TMC still made the choice.
There is a growing perception among the citizens and some political observers that political influence over educational institutions has increased since the TMC came to power. Political appointments and political control over educational institutions undoubtedly became the norm during the Left-wing regime, but under the TMC rule, this has become more apparent. A state's entire population is impacted by the education sector, which also generates a significant amount of employment. The main issue for the ruling party has been caused by the repeatedly mentioned banks' handling of corruption allegations and unauthorised appointments in this crucial sector.
Communal clashes, law and order setbacks
The growing number of intercommunal conflicts in the state is another concern for the ruling party. A recent communal clash occurred in Kolkata's Mominpur neighbourhood. The opposition Bharatiya Janata party asserted that the situation spiralled out of control and the local Hindus were forced to flee, contrary to the TMC's assertion that the police intervened immediately to maintain order. The Calcutta High Court took the case and established an SIT to look into it. This is not the first time that a localised communal conflict has broken out under the TMC's rule. Similar clashes occurred in some areas around Kolkata during the protest against the remarks made by suspended BJP leader Nupur Sharma about the Prophet Muhammad. The police action came under a scanner that time too.
A senior TMC leader on the condition of anonymity said, "We have also seen violence in the state under previous administrations. However, the recent communal conflicts that have broken out in the state may be a result of the BJP's influence. They use fake news to incite the communities."
Efforts to counter
The leaders of the ruling party told Newsdrum that the TMC has already launched a number of initiatives to dispel the spreading myth that the party is dishonest. According to TMC sources, Mamata Banerjee has ordered the district leaders to carry out community outreach programmes at the grassroots level where they must inform the populace of the good deeds carried out by the TMC government.
A senior TMC leader opined, "We are aware of how important a political party's perception and image are. West Bengal is a sizable state, and we have never claimed that there has never been any corruption. It is unfortunate that the Bharatiya Janata Party, the CPIM, and the congress are attempting to defame Mamata Banerjee and the entire TMC in this way if anyone has committed any wrongdoing. Law should punish the people who are corrupt. We will not protect such people."
The TMC leaders will hold Vijaya Sammelani ( a ceremony post-Durga Puja) throughout districts and Kolkata, according to the party leaders. At these events, the party's leaders will engage the public and discuss local issues, solutions, and party initiatives. "Mamata Banerjee will also participate in some of these gatherings and will talk to the people about their problems," a senior leader said.
Mamata Banerjee is a very intelligent politician who has experienced many setbacks, according to Bengal's political observers. If the party can concentrate on the important issues and make a concerted effort to correct course, the narrative may change.