As voting drew to a close across four municipalities in West Bengal, a handful of Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders gathered at Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Kalighat residence this evening for an emergency meeting in light of several recent controversies surrounding the TMC. And the surprise upshot: the abolition of all party posts, and the launch of a national working committee comprising several of the earlier office bearers, to be headed by the CM herself. The move lays to rest the recent upheaval within the party over the ‘one person one post’ policy favoured by the CM’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee and a section of the party leadership. Typically, Mamata seems to have taken the decision without consulting anyone.
Among those present at the meeting were Abhishek, who must now be called the former TMC all-India general secretary, former TMC West Bengal general secretary Partha Chatterjee, former party state president Subrata Bakshi, TMC core committee member Firhad Hakim, and other prominent leaders such as Arup Biswas and Chandrima Bhattacharya. Also present was veteran leader and Parliamentarian Sudip Chatterjee.
Speaking to the media after the meeting, Partha Chatterjee informed reporters of the formation of the national working committee, and said Mamata herself would be declaring the names of post holders within the committee.
Uppermost on the agenda for the meeting was the need to address reports of a rift within the party following the hype over the ‘one person one post’ policy. Soon after being appointed all-India general secretary, Abhishek had floated the ‘one person one post’ idea within the party, and even seemed to gain approval from certain quarters. However, the policy met a roadblock before the Kolkata Municipal Corporation elections last year, when a debate ensued about whether Firhad Hakim could be a minister and mayor at the same time.
That was the beginning of the intra-party dispute, which came to a head with the publication of the list of candidates for elections to 108 municipalities in the state, scheduled for February 27. One of those lists was reportedly prepared by IPAC, the organisation headed by political strategist Prashant Kishore, recruited by TMC at Abhishek’s behest to conduct the party’s campaign for the 2021 Assembly elections. The other list came from the TMC leadership, comprising senior leaders like Partha Chatterjee and Bakshi. Despite the CM clearly favouring the second list, the so-called IPAC list was published on social media under the TMC handles, leading to widespread confusion.
On Thursday, IPAC unfollowed Mamata’s official Twitter handle, though it later re-followed her, and then unfollowed her again, leading to renewed speculation about whether the gap between aunt and nephew was widening.
While it was assumed that Saturday’s meeting would cover these topics too, sources said that was not the case. Senior leaders within the TMC see Mamata’s move as a step to preempt Abhishek’s resignation as general secretary following the ‘one person one post’ controversy. By abolishing the posts altogether, she has now ended all possibility that anyone may resign from them.
Municipal polls end
Meanwhile, voting has drawn to a close in the municipal elections in Bidhannagar, Asansol, Siliguri, and Chandannagar in West Bengal. Apart from a few stray incidents of violence, polling remained largely peaceful across the four locations despite earlier fears of widespread unrest. The fears were particularly focused on Bidhannagar, where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress is locked in battle with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
A total of 203 candidates are in the fray from 41 wards in Bidhannagar, while 200 candidates are contesting from 47 seats in Siliguri, 120 from 33 wards in Chandannagar and 430 from 106 wards in Asansol. The counting of votes will be held on February 14.