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Poll rout in Goa and Tripura, Birbhum killings force TMC to reach out to Cong

By Pradipta Tapadar
March 30, 2022 17:41 IST
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Trinamool Congress's failure to make a mark in elections in Goa and Tripura, coupled with trouble at home after the Birbhum killings, seemed to have forced the ruling party in West Bengal to rethink its national expansion strategy and reach out to the Congress for a pan-India anti-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance.

IMAGE: Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee during a meeting in New Delhi, July 28, 2021. Photograph: ANI Photo

TMC, which had earlier been on an attacking spree against the Congress, calling the grand old party 'war-weary,' 'incapable and incompetent' and 'in the deep freezer' and attempting to keep it out of any prospective formation against the BJP, seemed to have softened its stance after its recent electoral whitewash outside West Bengal.


Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee has recently written to all opposition parties including the Congress, calling on everyone to come together and put up a united fight against saffron forces.

The electoral debacle in Goa and Tripura, which punctured TMC's strategy to project itself as the "real Congress", is being seen as a major reason for this shift, party insiders said.

Banerjee had in February said she has "nothing personal" against Congress and is not in favour of fighting it. But, she had also alleged that the grand old party doesn't have good relations with regional outfits, a factor which might come in the way of uniting the opposition against BJP.

"Our party leadership sincerely believes that unless there is opposition unity on issues concerning the nation, the Modi regime can't be defeated," TMC chief spokesperson Sukhendu Sekhar Ray said.

Another senior TMC leader, on condition of anonymity, said that the party has been reaching out to the Congress for quite some time but has not received any response from it.

"We wanted to have a tie-up with the Congress in Goa assembly elections but they disagreed," he said.

He said that the TMC's strategy post 2021 West Bengal assembly polls to project itself as the "real Congress" failed as other opposition parties still consider the grand old party as the most credible pan-India anti-BJP force.

"The TMC initially engaged its entire machinery to attack the Congress but after the Goa poll debacle, realised that no national anti-BJP alliance would be possible without the grand old party," he said.

Mamata Banerjee had reached out to Congress president Sonia Gandhi for an alliance in Goa but it did not materialise.

Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that the alliance did not happen because the TMC "had gone to Goa to help the BJP by splitting votes polled against the saffron party".

He claimed that the TMC is "scared" of the political firestorm caused by the Birbhum killings, and is trying to divert public attention by talking of opposition unity.

"Sometimes they attack the Congress, and sometimes they want to align with us. TMC lacks credibility as an anti-BJP force," he said.

The high-decibel Goa campaign of the TMC failed as it did not win any seat and secured only 5.2 per cent of the votes. It had aligned with the Mahashtrawadi Gomantak Party. In Tripura civic elections, the TMC won only one ward in a municipality.

Political analyst Professor Maidul Islam of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata, said that TMC's attacks against the Congress were natural as both were rivals in Tripura and Goa elections.

"There can't be a non-BJP alternative without Congress. For the TMC, aligning with the grand old party will be beneficial. The BJP had exploited the fragmentation of the opposition in the 2019 Lok Sabha election," he said.

Another political analyst Suman Bhattacharya, a columnist and former journalist, said that the reaching out is happening from both sides.

"There are talks of I-PAC, which had managed the TMC's 2021 West Bengal assembly election campaign, planning to work for Congress in Gujarat. This may open a bridge for Banerjee's party with the grand old party," he added.

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Pradipta Tapadar in Kolkata
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