Mamata Banerjee’s visit to Goa and Prashant Kishore’s regular engagement in the state holds that the party is expected to expand but all at the cost of the Congress whose leaders are joining the TMC increasingly.
TMC on steroids to replace Congress in Goa
In what could be described as the West Bengal-based party’s biggest foray into the national political theatre, Trinamool Congress is eyeing Goa elections. A day after TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee embarked on her Goa quest, tennis legend Leander Paes joined her party. Today the TMC has emerged as the biggest threat to Congress across the states as many of its leaders have joined it.
"I now live in Goa as well. So my home is here. I was born in Bengal, but at the end of the day, I am a very patriotic Indian. For me, whether it is in Bengal or whether it is in Goa, or whether it is playing at Wimbledon. For me it is about doing India proud and in that, now living in Goa I would like to make a difference in my roots," Paes said after his formal induction in the party.
Paes said that India is the largest democracy and added that there is a great vision that Didi has to make sure that it is a very successful nation. An elated Banerjee said that Paes was like her younger brother. “I know him since I was the Youth and Sports Minister of this country; I’m too happy,” she said.
TMC on hunt
There is an unbelievable exodus of the Congressmen into the Bengal-based party. A few days ago, around 300 people had joined the TMC at different events in Panaji, Navelim and Sanguem area of Goa. The entire block-level leadership of the Congress party, including President Conceicao Peixote and over 170 workers, joined the Goa TMC in the presence of TMC National Vice-President Luizinho Faleiro in Navelim. Faleiro had quit the Congress party recently and also resigned as a member of the Goa Legislative Assembly before joining the TMC on September 29. Sources say that a senior Congressman from St Cruz also joined the party in the presence of West Bengal Minister of State Manas Ranjan Bhunia and Goa TMC leaders Yatish Naik and Mario Pinto in Panaji.
Similarly, over 150 people including the Sarpanch of the well known Molcornem Panchayat joined the party in the presence of TMC`s Parliamentary leader in Rajya Sabha, Derek O`Brien. Independent MLA from Sanguem Prasad Gaonkar is also in the TMC now for all practical purposes.
Earlier, while attacking the Central and State government of the Bharatiya Janata Party, TMC leader Faleiro, himself a new entrant in the TMC fold, said, “The Opposition has to come together. This can only happen under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee." Thus more wings are being provided to the quest of the TMC to project Mamata as an alternative to Narendra Modi at the Centre virtually making Congress a mere supporter of the front.
All India Congress Committee’s Goa desk in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao claimed that the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC was doing the same thing in Goa what the BJP did to it in West Bengal. The remarks came days after former Goa chief minister Luizinho Faleiro resigned as Congress MLA, ahead of the state polls due next year. “This is like trying to do what Mamata Didi alleged the BJP (of doing) in West Bengal, what they were doing to form government (before the West Bengal polls), getting ministers, MLAs to defect, she is doing the same thing here,” Rao added.
Vijay Sardesai the young President of Goa Forward Party is searching for an alliance partner for the next year’s assembly elections. The Congress party had already rebuffed his initial offer. He is of opinion that parties opposed to the ruling BJP cannot sit idle and should get into action now. Sardesai had started his career with the Congress but branched out after being denied a ticket in 2012. He too had damaged the Congress party after that. In July, he had said that the Congress had agreed to an ‘in-principle’ alliance with the GFP, but has since been left hanging.
Sardesai has been watching the entry of more and more political parties in Goa – AAP and TMC are key ones – and has been vocal about the fact that if there is no ‘united opposition’ it would just benefit the ruling party. Sardesai’s party has three MLAs in the 40-member state Assembly as to today and he says, “I am still open to an alliance with a party that is serious about defeating the BJP.”
While multiple political parties in the state have been holding discussions with each other ahead of the Assembly elections, it is learned that the TMC, the latest entrant in the state’s political landscape, is in talks with Sardesai. The GFP is preparing to contest 12 seats in the forthcoming polls. According to sources, Sardesai had met political strategist Prashant Kishore, who is managing the TMC’s poll campaign, and may have been offered to merge his party with the TMC and get the position of the TMC’s president in Goa.
Sources also hold that the GFP cadre was not comfortable with the merger because that may not sit well with their voters.
TMC exploring alliance with GFP
Politics makes strange bed-fellows. TMC and GFP coming together is something no one had ever thought about. But for both parties, it makes political sense. As far as BJP is concerned, Sardesai may not align with it so long as the incumbent Dr. Pramod Sawant remains the Chief Ministerial candidate. “The continuation of Pramod Sawant as the CM of Goa has become absolutely untenable, and the continued existence of his government, an impropriety and a mockery of all democratic, ethical and moral principles,” GFP chief once said.
If TMC and GFP manage to forge an alliance, it will certainly add political value to TMC in the state. More importantly, it opens the electoral game for the Goa Elections 2022 and if they get Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) on the board, it is not going to be a cake walk for BJP and the main Opposition party, Congress will certainly suffer.
“I am open to each and every one who is serious in defeating the BJP in Goa. My opinion is all anti-BJP forces in Goa should unite and bring the BJP down to a single digit,” said Sardesai. When asked about his meeting with Mamata Banerjee, he said, “She is the pride of a regional party, mine is also a regional party and we both want to defeat the BJP in Goa.”
The political analysts, however, say TMC’s entry in Goa may split the anti-BJP voters further. Minority votes might get split because of parties like TMC, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and MGP, and help the BJP become the largest party in the state. The fact is, in Goa, both AAP’s and TMC’s pan-India expansionist ambitions can only come at the expense of the Congress.
Mamata, Prashant attack Congress
Mamata Banerjee and Prashant Kishore have renewed their attack on the Congress accusing the grand old party of being ‘incapable’ of taking on the BJP and defeating Narendra Modi in general elections.
Mamata has been particularly angry about the fact that the Congress contested in the West Bengal Assembly elections against her. “Modiji is going to be so powerful because of Congress. If one cannot make a decision, why should the country suffer for that? They have got enough opportunities. Instead of BJP, they contested against me in my state. How do they expect that they will contest me and we will only give flowers and sweets to them?” said Mamata.
Political pundits say that the Congress party contested the West Bengal elections half-heartedly to see the BJP defeated and get the TMC support in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls as an alliance partner. But the attack of Mamata is just a reminder that the Congress should not outsource the task of defeating the BJP to regional parties.
Poll strategist Prashant Kishor recently took a swipe at Rahul Gandhi for believing that people will throw the BJP away and it’s just a matter of time. In a video clip from a private meeting in Goa, Kishor is heard saying, “BJP is going to be the center of Indian polity, whether they win, whether they lose, like it was for the first 40 years for Congress, BJP is going nowhere.”
He also added, “That is where the problem lies with Rahul Gandhi. Probably, he thinks it’s just a matter of time that people will throw Modi away. That’s not happening.”
Mamata Banerjee too echoed what Kishore had said previously. When asked if TMC will contest unitedly with the Congress to take on the BJP in 2024, she said, “They didn’t take politics seriously.”
“We want committed people and committed regional political parties who are really fighting; who really want to fight against the BJP, let us work together,” TMC supremo added.