Lok Sabha Elections 2019: TMC lawmakers discontent over selection of candidates
With several TMC leaders making a beeline to the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha elections and a growing dissatisfaction over selection of candidates, discontent seems to be brewing in Mamata Banerjee's party.
BJP's Mukul Roy, once the number two in the Trinamool Congress, has started inducting "disgruntled" leaders from his former party, including elected representatives, into the saffron party's fold.
Resentment in the TMC camp came to the fore after it announced its list of 42 candidates for the Lok Sabha polls. The party dropped 10 MPs and brought in 18 new faces.
Sitting MPs from seats such as Coochbehar, Basirshat, Jhargram, Medinipur, Bolpur, Bishnupur and Krishnanagar were dropped from this year's TMC candidate list. The BJP has made steady inroads in these places over the last five years, largely due to the infighting within the TMC's local leadership.
Local TMC leaders who had been with the party for several years were overlooked in many seats in favour of filmstars including greenhorns, and those joining from the Congress and the Left parties.
After MPs Soumitra Khan and Anupam Hazra, TMC leader and four-time MLA Arjun Singh, who was denied ticket from Barrackpore Lok Sabha seat, switched over to the BJP.
Leaders of the saffron party claimed that several TMC MLAs and others will join them in the next few days.
Trinamool Congress' South Dinajpur district chief Biplab Mitra had openly expressed his displeasure over re-nomination of Arpita Ghosh from Balurghat Lok Sabha seat.
"I had informed the party that people of Balurghat are not happy with Ghosh's performance. Her victory cannot be guaranteed this time. There were several able leaders. Had they got the nomination, we would have won. However, we will try our best to ensure that Ghosh wins," Mitra told PTI.
Ghosh, a theatre activist who had been part of Banerjee's intellectual brigade during her fight against the Left Front government, said she cannot be defeated as long as she enjoys the TMC supremo's blessings.
In Coochbehar, the TMC has replaced its sitting MP Partha Pratim Ray with a minister in the erstwhile Left Front government, Paresh Chandra Adhikary, who joined the ruling party last year.
Although Ray did not make any comment but according to sources, the BJP is trying to get him into its fold.
"Why was Adhikary given ticket? Does our district unit lack good leaders to contest the Lok Sabha polls? This decision has not sent out a good message to the rank and file of the party," a senior TMC district leader said, adding that the BJP would "exploit the ripples of discontent" in the party.
The situation is more or less the same in Malda North parliamentary seat where former Congress MP Mausam Benazir Noor, who crossed over to the TMC, has been nominated.
In at least three other seats, Congress MLAs who had switched over to the TMC in the past one year were given tickets instead of old timers.
In Murshidabad Lok Sabha seat, TMC's youth leader Shamik Hossain, a key organisational man and a ticket aspirant, was overlooked in favour of former Congress MLA Abu Taher, who had switched over to the ruling party last year.
Banerjee had alleged that the BJP was contacting some of the "disgruntled" leaders, urging them to contest the polls on saffron party tickets.
"I have 100 per cent faith in my party cadre and workers. They stand by the principles and discipline of the TMC. However, there are a few who may have the desire to contest polls but were not nominated. They might have other thoughts. I would like them to go," she had said recently.
Senior leader and minister Jyotipriyo Mullick said, "People of Bengal will vote in favour of Mamata Banerjee and the TMC's symbol. We are nobody without her."
Meanwhile, BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya claimed many more top leaders from the TMC and other parties in West Bengal will join his party soon.
"Just wait for a few days. The game has just begun," he said.
The Congress and the CPI(M), the worst sufferers of defection in the state since 2011, said it is good that the TMC is "getting a dose of its own medicine".
"As you sow, so shall you reap. It is the TMC which has ensured the growth of the BJP in Bengal by finishing off secular forces like the Congress and the CPI(M)," state Congress president Somen Mitra said.
More than 17 Congress MLAs and three legislators of the Left Front had switched over to the TMC since the last assembly elections in West Bengal in 2016.