Mamata’s Mission Beyond Bengal
Mamata Banerjee’s cyclonic victory in Bengal has once again proved that she had grown into an icon over the years and is ready to play the centre-stage role in the years to come. The way her simple politics directly hit the heart of a common man is accepted by the mandate she achieved this time in Bengal. Mamata Banerjee’s evolution from a student leader to state politics then to her central role as Railway Minister during the NDA government at the Centre and as Member of Parliament for years has no doubt given her a place of prominence in national politics. Now she herself is up for a bigger role with Bengal as the centre-stage.
Indian parliamentary democracy too has grown over the year which can be witnessed from the big players making place at the centre-stage of politics breaking the traditional politics of parivarvad. One family or one party to rule the country for ages is now not being accepted by the rational citizens of the largest democracy. The head of the state of Gujarat, Narendra Modi made his way to the highest office of the democracy, the PMO. Likewise, you see Arvind Kejriwal, without any background in politics, plunged into politics and became the Chief Minister of the national capital, New Delhi.
So, Mamata Banerjee too has the potential to rule the country the way she is ruling the most prominent state of Eastern India, West Bengal. She is ready for a bigger role too, as evident from the words, when after her victory second time, speaking to journalists she didn’t deny playing a bigger role in the interest of the country.
Towards achieving this national mission, immediately after registering the record victory in Bengal, Mamata Banerjee started to make her dominance felt in the eastern part of India and her first target this time is Tripura, as her one-point agenda is to overthrow the rule of Left Front there under the leadership of CPI(M).
So, within a month of her victory in Bengal her party has now emerged as the prime opposition in the Tripura state assembly, when six out of 10 Congress MLA’s joined Trinamool Congress making the party the main opposition for the Manik Sarkar-led Left Front government in Tripura in the 60 members Tripura Legislative Assembly.
Maharaja of Tripura and former Congress state president Pradyot Kishore Manikya is of the view that Mamata’s decision to induct six Congress MLAs is a wrong decision. While speaking to
Uday India he said, “Sudip Barman has joined TMC I have come to know. This is a common practice for Barman. His father joined Janata Party in the 70’s, it is known to everyone. So for them changing party is nothing new. I perceived that it would have been better if Trinamool would have invested on someone with a fresh and clean image in the state, like Mamata Banerjee never has any understanding with any party, She has a clean image.”
Former Tripura Chief Minister Samir Ranjan Barman, along with six rebel Congress MLAs, including his son Sudip Roy Barman joined Trinamool Congress. Marking Trinamool Congress’s firm footing in Tripura. Sudip met West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool president Mamata Banerjee immediately after her swearing-in last month, with a delegation of the rebel leaders indicating their interest to be in her fold. In the past, Sudip had also written to party president Sonia Gandhi expressing the state Congress’ distress regarding its alliance with the Left in West Bengal during the Assembly election and sought her intervention.
At present, the Manik Sarkar government is comfortably placed with 50 seats in the 60-member Assembly, but this comfort has started to pinching Sarkar. Sudip Roy Barman, reiterating that Mamata is the “only antidote” to the Left rule, said: “In Tripura, Congress has lost all credibility after it entered into an alliance with CPM in West Bengal. How can you fight against CPM when you have an alliance with them in another state?”
The alliance between Left and Congress in Bengal had not pleased both groups in Tripura. Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar is said to have described the move as a “historic blunder” and refused to campaign in Bengal. At around the same time, Sudip Roy Barman — the then Tripura Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader — had resigned from his post in protest. The Congress high command had suspended Sudip, who led the five disgruntled legislators, following which he sided with Mamata Banerjee.
Even Tripura CPM state secretary Bijon Dhar had said: “The party had made mistakes earlier as well but the alliance with the Congress was its biggest blunder”. Though Tripura Assembly elections are scheduled only in 2018, Trinamool’s dogged opposition of the Left is likely to worry Sarkar’s hitherto unchallenged Left government.
For Mamata this is the perfect opportunity to expand her party’s influence in the north-east. Bengalis form the largest ethno-linguistic group in Tripura with about 67 per cent of the population. Mamata’s lieutenant Mukul Roy was given the task of exploring the possibility in the state.
Manik Sarkar, who has been the virtually unchallenged Left front chief minister of Tripura since 1998, is a worried man now. As mentioned earlier, he refused to campaign for the Left-Congress alliance’ in West Bengal and he has repeatedly warned of the RSS’s increasing importance in the state. The new challenge facing him, however, comes from another direction and that is Mamata Banerjee described by the opposition in Tripura as the “only antidote” to the Left.
Mamata Banerjee, who has long held pan-India political ambitions, is looking to capitalise on the relative decline of Congress strongholds in the north-east. While the BJP is looking towards Manipur after successfully pulling off a victory in Assam, Banerjee hopes that with a win in Tripura she will also be able to expand her party’s base in the region.
Assembly elections in 2018 are still a long way off. The Trinamool Congress’s strategy in the state is likely to be similar to the line they took in West Bengal — relentless opposition, continued dharnas and protests and looking to capitalise on the discontent of the people. For the Left in the state, the challenge will be to recover from the Left-Congress alliance in West Bengal.
During her last visit to Tripura, Mamata Banerjee vowed to democratically unseat Left Front from Tripura in 2018 Assembly elections. It is evident from what West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said while making a clarion call for democratically unseating the Left Front from Tripura in the next Assembly elections in 2018. “Fighting single-handedly I have ended the 34 years of murderous misrule of CPI (M)-led Left Front in West Bengal and it is possible here also,” said Mamata during her speech.
Besides Roy Barman, the other Congress MLAs who signed the letter offering to join Trinamool Congress include Ashish Saha, Biswabandhu Sen, Diba Chandra Hrangkhawl, Pranjit Singha Roy and Dilip Sarkar. Though Pranjit Singha Roy, who is out of Tripura, and the ailing Dilip Sarkar were not present when Roy Barman handed over the letter to the speaker. Sudip Roy Barman was the opposition leader in the Tripura Assembly. The Congress now has only three legislators in the 60-member house.
This major development in Tripura politics makes the Congress worried. While speaking to Uday India, Tripura Congress spokesperson Tapas Dey said, “Those who left Congress to join Trinamool Congress are yet to prove themselves, hearing is still due. We are doing our bit to strengthen our base at grassroots level. According to Congress high command’s instructions, we are reaching out to the people and will campaign against chit funds issue. We are planning to launch wide spread campaign against Left Front government’s undoing.”
Another Congress legislator, Jitendra Sarkar, resigned from the Tripura Assembly and said he would rejoin the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M). A former two-term Speaker of the Tripura Assembly, Sarkar joined the Congress in six years back in March 2010.
On the other hand, PCC general secretary and current head of the Tripura royal family Maharaj Pradyot Bikram Kishore Manikya Debbarma recently said that he would appeal to all anti-Left forces to join hands with Congress and form one broad anti-Left platform under the party ahead of the coming ADC election.
by Joydeep Dasgupta, from Kolkata