Trinamool Congress (TMC) News

Trinamool Spent Rs 47 Crore For Goa Polls, BJP Rs 17 Crore: Election Body
Ndtv | 1 day ago | |
Ndtv
1 day ago | |

Eyeing expansion, the Trinamool Congress had actively campaigned for the assembly elections in Goa.New Delhi: The Goa assembly elections were keenly fought with the Trinamool Congress and Aam Aadmi Party throwing their hats in the ring but when it came to poll expenditure, it was the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress that loosened its purse strings spending a whopping Rs 47.54 crore.The BJP, which retained power in Goa with Chief Minister Pramod Sawant at the helm, spent over Rs 17.75 crore towards election expenditure in the state.The Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP spent nearly Rs 3.5 crore in Goa, where it tried its luck for the second consecutive assembly elections.The details of the election expenditure were submitted by the respective political parties to the Election Commission recently.The Congress, which was hoping to dislodge the BJP from power in Goa, spent approximately Rs 12 crore on the Goa elections.The Nationalist Congress Party gave Rs 25 lakh each to the 11 candidates it had fielded for the elections, besides spending on the campaign from the party's central fund.The Shiv Sena, which fielded 10 candidates in the Goa elections, spent nearly Rs 92 lakh towards poll expenditure. Eyeing expansion, the Trinamool Congress had launched an election blitzkrieg in Goa with poll strategist Prashant Kishor playing a key role in trying to get the party a toehold in the state.The party fielded 23 candidates in the Goa assembly election but none of them won, while its ally Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party put up candidates in 13 seats and managed to win two.The AAP fielded 39 candidates and managed to open its account in the state by winning two seats.The Congress had cried foul at the entry of Trinamool Congress and the AAP in the electoral fray in Goa, accusing them of dividing the anti-BJP vote.The BJP won 20 seats in the 40-member assembly and formed the government with the support of two MGP MLAs and three Independent legislators.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comEarlier this month, eight of the 11 Congress MLAs, including Leader of Opposition Michael Lobo and former chief minister Digambar Kamat, defected to the BJP.(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Trinamool Spent Rs 47 Crore For Goa Polls, BJP Rs 17 Crore: Election Body
TMC likely to slap Faleiro with gag order in RS
Times of India | 2 days ago | |
Times of India
2 days ago | |

Panaji: The clock is ticking for Rajya Sabha MP Luizinho Faleiro as the Trinamool Congress Party is all set to reprimand the former Goa chief minister “for disobeying” the party high command. High-ranking TMC officials say the party’s disciplinary committee has issued a notice to Faleiro for “anti-party activities” and are considering issuing a gag order against him in the Upper House of Parliament.A TMC functionary told TOI that the party high command remains upset with Faleiro for his refusal to contest the Goa assembly elections and his subsequent refusal to “gracefully step down” from the Rajya Sabha seat.“The party’s disciplinary committee has issued a notice to Faleiro for working against the party’s interests,” said the functionary, adding that this is first part of the two-step process.“One action that is being considered is removing Faleiro’s permission to speak in the Rajya Sabha. Party MPs can speak only with permission from the party leader in Parliament,” a TMC official said.Interestingly, on Saturday Faleiro released a letter that he wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking special permission to set up a central museum complex at Navelim in honour of Dr Francisco Luis Gomes. Faleiro lauded the Centre’s efforts to remove India’s “colonial mindset” and said that recognising Gomes’s contribution will be a step in the right direction.A TMC MP representing West Bengal, Faleiro wants to use his Member of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) funds to build the museum complex in his former assembly constituency.“I have funds in the MPLAD scheme which I will readily offer for such a museum complex. However, since I represent West Bengal in the Rajya Sabha, the utilisation of the funds in Goa may require special permission. If such permission is obtained. that would be my contribution to the project,” said Faleiro in a letter to Modi.TMC functionaries claimed that Faleiro is trying to buy time and attempting to curry political brownie points before the disciplinary action occurs.Reacting to Faleiro’s letter to the PM, a high-ranking TMC official said, “He has indulged in cheap politics for self benefit.”“Faleiro is showing his true colours. He is even praising PM Modi (in the letter),” the official said.

TMC likely to slap Faleiro with gag order in RS
Goa: Vishwajit Rane ‘open to ideas’, but ‘won’t budge’ on TCP
Times of India | 4 days ago | |
Times of India
4 days ago | |

PANAJI: Faced with strong criticism against the proposed changes to the Goa Land Development and Building Construction Regulations, town and country planning (TCP) minister Vishwajit Rane said that while he is open to “constructive ideas”, he will not deviate from his plan to bring in “new policies in the interest of Goa”. Rane said he remains firm about offering additional floor-area ratio (FAR) to hotels and resorts, including three-star resorts, and also stands by his decision to permit golf courses, farm houses and other tourism activities in green areas. “Provision for golf course and film city has already been made under Regional Plan 2021. Clarity is now brought by means of these regulations,” said Rane. “We are here to accept constructive ideas and positive suggestions. As a government, we are here to work towards the benefit of our people and the state.” Political parties, environmentalists, social activists, architects, urban planners and citizens have expressed concern about the proposed changes. Revolutionary Goans (RG), Trinamool Congress and Aam Aadmi Party have condemned the changes, and RG has announced that it will hold a protest on Friday outside the TCP office to oppose the changes. Rane, in turn, said he has appointed professionals and industry stakeholders to the TCP body to ensure balanced development. He said projects which are not in the state’s interest will not be taken up. “Years back, a few NGOs took to the streets objecting to the entry of five-star hotels in the state. Today, with our main financial backbone, mining, being shut, these very hotels are keeping the finances of the state going through tourism,” Rane said. He said that tourism projects need to be encouraged and incentivised. “We have decided that the facility of additional FAR as applicable to four-star and five-star hotels shall also be extended to three-star hotels and resorts as they are scattered in urban and rural parts. This will facilitate additional accommodation in other parts of the state and will generate additional revenue,” Rane said. The minister said that the TCP department will accord equal focus and emphasis to prevent damage to the environment. The state has decided to engage the services of the Indian Green Building Council to monitor and ensure that mega projects adhere to green norms, water conservation and energy efficiency, he added.

Goa: Vishwajit Rane ‘open to ideas’, but ‘won’t budge’ on TCP
  • Rane ‘open to ideas’, but ‘won’t budge’ on TCP plans
  • Times of India

    Panaji: Faced with strong criticism against the proposed changes to the Goa Land Development and Building Construction Regulations, town and country planning (TCP) minister Vishwajit Rane said that while he is open to “constructive ideas”, he will not deviate from his plan to bring in “new policies in the interest of Goa”.Rane said he remains firm about offering additional floor-area ratio (FAR) to hotels and resorts, including three-star resorts, and also stands by his decision to permit golf courses, farm houses and other tourism activities in green areas.“Provision for golf course and film city has already been made under Regional Plan 2021. Clarity is now brought by means of these regulations,” said Rane. “We are here to accept constructive ideas and positive suggestions. As a government, we are here to work towards the benefit of our people and the state.”Political parties, environmentalists, social activists, architects, urban planners and citizens have expressed concern about the proposed changes. Revolutionary Goans (RG), Trinamool Congress and Aam Aadmi Party have condemned the changes, and RG has announced that it will hold a protest on Friday outside the TCP office to oppose the changes.Rane, in turn, said he has appointed professionals and industry stakeholders to the TCP body to ensure balanced development. He said projects which are not in the state’s interest will not be taken up.“Years back, a few NGOs took to the streets objecting to the entry of five-star hotels in the state. Today, with our main financial backbone, mining, being shut, these very hotels are keeping the finances of the state going through tourism,” Rane said.He said that tourism projects need to be encouraged and incentivised. “We have decided that the facility of additional FAR as applicable to four-star and five-star hotels shall also be extended to three-star hotels and resorts as they are scattered in urban and rural parts. This will facilitate additional accommodation in other parts of the state and will generate additional revenue,” Rane said.The minister said that the TCP department will accord equal focus and emphasis to prevent damage to the environment. The state has decided to engage the services of the Indian Green Building Council to monitor and ensure that mega projects adhere to green norms, water conservation and energy efficiency, he added.

Goa: New town and country planning norms at cost of Goa’s agriculture sector, says Trinamool Congress
Times of India | 4 days ago | |
Times of India
4 days ago | |

PANAJI: Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Wednesday said that the town and country planning (TCP) department’s recent amendments to the Goa Land Development and Building Construction Regulations threaten Goa’s natural resources and ecosystem. The party said that the amendments “come at the cost of Goa’s agricultural sector” which needs to be strengthened and not weakened, after the Covid-19 pandemic. TMC’s joint convenor Samil Volvaiker urged village panchayats to pass resolutions opposing the TCP’s new amendments as Goa’s villages will soon face water scarcity. “The government is in a tearing hurry to destroy Goan farmers,” he said. Volvaikar said TMC is ready to join hands with other political parties to oppose the changes proposed by TCP. “We stand in solidarity with all Goemkars who have taken a stand and raised their voice against infrastructure projects. We may differ in our political ideology, but we must come together and fight to protect our heritage and environment. I appeal to panch members to collectively raise their voices against the regulations.”

Goa: New town and country planning norms at cost of Goa’s agriculture sector, says Trinamool Congress
  • New TCP norms at cost of Goa’s agri sector: TMC
  • Times of India

    Panaji: Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Wednesday said that the town and country planning (TCP) department’s recent amendments to the Goa Land Development and Building Construction Regulations threaten Goa’s natural resources and ecosystem. The party said that the amendments “come at the cost of Goa’s agricultural sector” which needs to be strengthened and not weakened, after the Covid-19 pandemic. TMC’s joint convenor Samil Volvaiker urged village panchayats to pass resolutions opposing the TCP’s new amendments as Goa’s villages will soon face water scarcity. “The government is in a tearing hurry to destroy Goan farmers,” he said.Volvaikar said TMC is ready to join hands with other political parties to oppose the changes proposed by TCP. “We stand in solidarity with all Goemkars who have taken a stand and raised their voice against infrastructure projects. We may differ in our political ideology, but we must come together and fight to protect our heritage and environment. I appeal to panch members to collectively raise their voices against the regulations.”

Goa: TMC likely to ask Luizinho Faleiro to vacate Rajya Sabha seat
Times of India | 1 week ago | |
Times of India
1 week ago | |

PANAJI: By continuing to sideline its Rajya Sabha MP and former Goa CM Luizinho Faleiro from the party’s affairs in Goa, the Bengal-headquartered TMC has confirmed that Faleiro’s honeymoon with it has more or less ended. A section of TMC functionaries is of the view that Faleiro’s RS term should be cut short. “TMC has been nudging Faleiro to resign from the Rajya Sabha since the assembly election fiasco,” said a party functionary. “Faleiro has sought an appointment with Didi but he is not getting one. Faleiro has been given a cold shoulder by Abhishek Banerjee.” TMC sidelined Faleiro by not letting him use officeThe party’s brass, including Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, has been upset with Faleiro since he refused to contest the 2022 assembly election from Fatorda sagainst GFP’s Vijai Sardesai, said some of the party functionaries. While Faleiro remains tight-lipped, sources said that he had been given six months to resign from the Upper House. “The party did everything for him based on the reports prepared by the agency TMC had appointed. The party agreed to make Faleiro Rajya Sabha MP thinking that he would do magic for TMC in the 2022 polls as he was considered a tall leader ín Goa’s politics,” a senior TMC functionary told TOI. With the hype created by his camp in August-September 2021 about his capabilities for Congress in the past, TMC had asked Arpita Ghosh, whose Rajya Sabha term was to end in 2026, to resign to make way for Faleiro. TMC leadership was dumbfounded when Faleiro couldn’t get the party candidate (Valanka Alemao) supported by him, elected from Navelim — a constituency which he had represented several times since early 80s, he said. Faleiro was dropped from the national executive committee and did not find a mention in the ad hoc committee appointed for Goa or the recently reconstituted state executive committee. When asked about Faleiro’s role in the party, MP and TMC leader in Rajya Sabha Derek O’Brien described Faleiro as an “honourable man”, a term that O’Brien also used for former Benaulim MLA Churchill Alemao, who has since left TMC. “The new committee’s role is to talk to people and find out their issues. Faleirobab is an honourable man,” he said. According to party insiders, given Faleiro’s stature and his role in initially building up TMC last year, the party is averse to forcing him out. “The high command has asked him to gracefully resign in six months. That time is up. Faleiro says that he will wait for Mamata Banerjee to personally tell him and he will do what she tells him,” said a TMC state functionary. TMC functionaries said that the Bengal CM had made it clear to Faleiro when he joined TMC in Kolkata that he will have to contest the assembly elections. While Faleiro had initially agreed, he refused to contest from Fatorda against the “chief betrayer” which led to his declaration as persona non grata, said TMC functionaries. While Faleiro has been taking up Goa’s issues in the Rajya Sabha, the party has subtly sidelined him by refusing to let him use the party office to address press conferences.

Goa: TMC likely to ask Luizinho Faleiro to vacate Rajya Sabha seat
‘Two types of people leave Congress… Himanta Sarma a classic example of category 2’: Jairam Ramesh
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

At a time when the Congress is busy with the Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi, the party was dealt another blow as eight of its 11 MLAs in Goa, including former Chief Minister Digambar Kamat and former Leader of Opposition Michael Lobo, switched over to the BJP.Speaking about the defection, AICC general secretary in-charge of communication, Jairam Ramesh, said that there were two types of people who leave the Congress party. “The first is the kind who leave after benefitting everything from the party. Ghulam Nabi Azad is a great example of these kinds of leaders. He started off as a mere worker of the party and went onto become the Pradesh Congress president and even a Union Minister. However, after benefitting from the party, he kicked it and left.”LIVE: Congress Party Briefing by shri @Jairam_Ramesh on #BharatJodoYatra in Kerala. https://t.co/A7YJUqlfH3— Congress (@INCIndia) September 15, 2022Explaining the defection in Goa, Ramesh stated: “There’s a second category of leaders who leave the party when they feel threatened by or vulnerable to investigative agencies. These 8 MLAs in Goa went into the BJP washing machine and will now become spotless like my white kurta. Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is a classic example of this. When he was with the Congress, the BJP used to attack him every day, but as soon as he jumped ship, all cases against him were taken off and now, he has even become the CM.”Ramesh also launched a scathing attack on the Trinamool Congress, CPM in Kerala and the Aam Aadmi Party, holding Mamata Banerjee “singularly responsible” for the rise of the BJP in West Bengal and alleging that the CPM and BJP were two sides of the same coin in Kerala.The Congress said it was ready to work towards Opposition unity if there is a need for it, but argued it cannot have such a deal with parties intent or hell bent upon weakening the Congress, in its words.

‘Two types of people leave Congress… Himanta Sarma a classic example of category 2’: Jairam Ramesh
Hashtag Politics | Kichad, Lotus, Goa to Punjab, Oppn flings all at BJP
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

WITH THE ‘Operation Lotus’ tag already taken, the Congress Wednesday came up with ‘Operation Kichad’ to hit out at the BJP as its party unit collapsed in Goa.As eight of its 11 MLAs joining the BJP, Congress general secretary and communications in-charge Jairam Ramesh tweeted: “Operation Kichad of BJP in Goa has been fast tracked because of the visible success of the #BharatJodoYatra. BJP is nervous. A daily dose of diversion & disinformation is handed out to undermine the Yatra… We remain undeterred.”Operation Kichad of BJP in Goa has been fast tracked because of the visible success of the #BharatJodoYatra. BJP is nervous. A daily dose of diversion & disinformation is handed out to undermine the Yatra. We remain undeterred. We will overcome these dirty tricks of the BJP.— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) September 14, 2022Echoing him, the Congress’s communication head, Pawan Khera, said, “Once again it has been proven that the BJP can only break… Those who are not able to support this difficult journey of uniting India, fearing the threats of BJP, cross over to those who break… (they) should understand that India is watching.”Dinesh Gundu Rao, the Congress’s Goa in-charge, referred to legislators taking an oath in front of temples, church and a dargah ahead of the 2022 Assembly elections saying they would not defect to the BJP. The “BJP was in for a surprise” if it thought that “Operation Kichad” was going to make it “stronger”, he added. “Their Jar of Sins is filling up. The people will fight back. We will fight back.”If @BJP4India thinks that by doing #OperationKhichad in #Goa they are going to get stronger, then they will be in for a surprise.People of India is witnessing their unholy & corrupt politics.Their Jar of Sins is filling up.The people will fight back.We will fight back.— Dinesh Gundu Rao/ದಿನೇಶ್ ಗುಂಡೂರಾವ್ (@dineshgrao) September 14, 2022The TMC, which made an ineffectual debut in Goa in this year’s Assembly election, said it knew this was coming. Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien tweeted: ‘We knew these scumbags would let you down. TRUST GOA TMC. #Goa we will always be there for you.”If ‘Operation Kichad’ occupied the Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party repeated its claims of BJP attempts to poach its MLAs. While it had earlier accused the BJP of trying the same in Delhi, it now said the same for Punjab, saying that as part of ‘Operation Lotus’, the party was offering 10 of its MLAs Rs 25 crore each.“They are buying MLAs and breaking governments, which is dangerous for democracy,” AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal said.(With PTI inputs)

Hashtag Politics | Kichad, Lotus, Goa to Punjab, Oppn flings all at BJP
A lot can happen over 6 months in Goa: From pre-2022 polls, to post results, and now
The Indian Express | 1 week ago | |
The Indian Express
1 week ago | |

The smallest state in the country, Goa has just 40 members in its state Assembly. But as the latest round of defections shows, there is no end to the permutations and combinations that can be weaved with those numbers in its volatile, multi-party politics.Since its transition to a full-fledged state 35 years ago, in 1987, Goa has had 16 chief ministers, with some holding office for barely a month or even less.Here is how the situation stood before it went to elections earlier this year:* BJP: The ruling BJP’s campaign was spearheaded by sitting Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, who took over the reins after party stalwart and former CM Manohar Parrikar’s demise in 2019.The BJP had lost the elections technically in 2017, with 13 seats against the Congress’s 17. However, it managed to cobble up a majority by tying up with regional parties like the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and Goa Forward Party (GFP), and two Independents.In 2019, 10 Congress MLAs and two MGP MLAs defected to the BJP, bouncing it to a comfortable position. Out went the alliance partners from the government.Before the polls, the BJP lost two MLAs, one each to the Congress and AAP, and inducted one legislator each from the Congress and GFP. One of those around whom there was huge speculation at the time was sitting Ports Minister Michael Lobo, who did eventually leave to join the Congress – only to return to the BJP on Wednesday.Congress: The party, which saw power slip out of its hands in 2017 despite being short by just 4 MLAs for a simple majority, went into the Assembly elections with just 2 sitting MLAs. After the 2019 defection, it had also seen 2 MLAs switch to newbie Trinamool Congress and one more to the BJP.BJP ex-allies: Miffed by the BJP, the MGP and GFP went into the 2022 election forging new alliances – the MGP with the TMC, and the GFP with the Congress.AAP, RG: Among new entrants was the Aam Aadmi Party, which greeted Wednesday’s defection news by repeating allegations of ‘Operation Lotus’ against the BJP. Also in the race was a regional outfit, Revolutionary Goans (RG), with an “anti-migrant” plank.TMC: It floated a proposal for a large Opposition alliance for the polls, expressing willingness to join hands with the Congress among others. The Congress was not enthused, with party observer for the polls P Chidambaram accusing the TMC and AAP of “fracturing” the anti-BJP votes, maintaining that only the Congress could defeat the BJP in Goa.After the results:The BJP won 20 of the 40 seats. Soon after the poll results, two MLAs of the MGP, which had fought in alliance with the TMC, gave their support to the BJP, as did 3 Independents, taking the BJP strength to 25.The Congress won 11 seats, AAP two, and GFP and RG 1 seat each. The TMC could not open its tally.With Wednesday’s defection, the BJP is up to 28 in the Assembly, while the two MGP MLAs and 3 Independents continue to support it.The Congress, reduced to 2 last time round, is down to 3.

A lot can happen over 6 months in Goa: From pre-2022 polls, to post results, and now
Porvorim TMC poll candidate held by SIT for forging land documents
Times of India | 2 weeks ago | |
Times of India
2 weeks ago | |

Panaji: The SIT probing the state’s land grab scam on Friday arrested Sandeep Vazarkar — who had contested the 2022 assembly election from Porvorim as a TMC candidate — for allegedly forging land documents and cheating to the tune of Rs 27 lakh.Crime branch SP Nidhin Valsan said that an FIR was registered in June at the Mapusa police station based on a complaint by Porvorim resident Purshottam Agarwal.Valsan said that between November 2018 and August 2021, Vazarkar dishonestly induced Agarwal to buy landed property in survey number 21/31 at Sangolda.Valsan said that Vazarkar “fraudulently carried out documentary and monetary transactions towards the sale and transferring of legal rights in respect of land property survey number 21/31 of Sangolda with the complainant and his wife Laxmi, by virtue of agreement for sale with promise to sell the property”.The SP said that Vazarkar accepted a total of Rs 27 lakh through various transactions, which were entrusted by the complainant and his wife and after which the accused cheated the complainant. The crime was transferred to SIT for investigation.“During the course of investigation, Vazarkar was apprehended from Panaji and placed under arrest,” Valsan said, adding that he “is also involved in similar property-related offences”. A local court granted bail on a personal surety of Rs 50,000, and on the surety of two others of Rs 25,000 each.In December 2021, Mapusa police had arrested Vazarkar in connection with the alleged Serula comunidade land grab case. In January, Porvorim police arrested Vazarkar in two cases of alleged cheque bouncing in Dehradun. Police said that after they received two bailable warrants from a Dehradun court for execution, they summoned Vazarkar to the police station.On the eve of the 2022 assembly election, Vazarkar quit BJP and joined TMC after Porvorim MLA and tourism minister Rohan Khaunte was inducted into BJP. Vazarkar contested on a TMC ticket and after losing the assembly election, he quit TMC.Until 2019, Vazarkar was a close aide of Porvorim MLA Rohan Khaunte.

Porvorim TMC poll candidate held by SIT for forging land documents
Disquiet among Mamata’s intelligentsia allies as list of TMC leaders under cloud grows
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

On September 1, when West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee led a rally in Kolkata as a thanksgiving gesture to the UNESCO for including the city’s Durga Puja in its Intangible Cultural Heritage list, she was accompanied by many TMC leaders and legislators including TV and film actors who got elected as party MLAs and MPs.Among the prominent faces who were conspicuous by their absence at this grand rally were independent writers, academics, painters, musicians and film and theatre personalities, such as Jogen Chowdhury, Aparna Sen, Nachiketa, Kaushik Sen, Arpita Ghosh and Sohini Sengupta among others, many of whom had rallied round Mamata during her landmark Singur and Nandigram movements in protest against the then CPI(M)-led Left Front regime’s land-acquisition policy.This group of intellectual and cultural figures had played a remarkable role in helping Mamata oust the 34-year Left regime from power in the 2011 Bengal Assembly polls. In the previous Assembly polls last year too they had strongly supported Mamata to keep the BJP at bay, whom they have always accused of allegedly practising the politics of communalism and polarisation.However, in worrying signs for the ruling TMC, these intellectuals and artists are now increasingly distancing themselves from the TMC dispensation as a slew of its leaders and functionaries have been allegedly implicated in various cases or scams after coming under the scanner of central agencies like the CBI and ED.On September 7, the state law and PWD minister Moloy Ghatak became the latest TMC leader to have been raided by a central agency, the CBI in this case, over his alleged involvement in a case of multi-crore coal smuggling from a state coalfield. Ghatak had already been summoned by the ED several times for questioning. Several TMC leaders, including the party’s national general secretary and Mamata’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee, are on the radar of the central agencies over this scam. Abhishek has also been questioned by the ED several times.On July 22, a day after the TMC’s martyrs day rally, the ED raided multiple places in Bengal and finally arrested the then education minister and TMC heavyweight Partha Chatterjee in connection with the school jobs scam. It also recovered Rs 50 crore cash from the apartments of Partha’s close aide Arpita Mukherjee and arrested her. Both of them have been in jail. Partha’s arrest shook the TMC, even as the seizure of such massive stashes of cash, whose videos went viral, shocked the people of the state.On August 11, the CBI arrested a close Mamata aide Anubrata Mondal, the TMC’s Birbhum district president, over a cattle smuggling case. On September 7, the CBI conducted raids and search operations at the premises of several Mondal associates.On September 3, the Halisahar municipality chairman and TMC leader, Raju Sahani, was arrested in a chit fund case. A day later, the CBI raided the houses of TMC MLA Subodh Adhikari and his brother and Kanchrapara municipality chairman Kamal Adhikari in the same case.Recently, the TMC Rajya Sabha MP and former Union culture secretary, Jawhar Sircar, admitted that “a section of the TMC was completely rotten” and that the party could not fight the saffron party in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections with the help of such elements.A fierce critic of the Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre, Sircar said the visuals of piles of cash recovered from Arpita’s houses were so outrageous that his family urged him to quit politics. “I couldn’t believe it when I saw it on TV. So much money can come out of someone’s house! Past imagination. Scenes of such corruption are rarely seen on TV,” he reportedly said.Sircar’s remarks sparked a row even as he drew flak from within the TMC. Senior party MP Sougata Roy said, “Jawhar Sircar did not walk in a Trinamool procession even for a day before becoming a Rajya Sabha MP. There are no sacrifices. When he was secretary of the Ministry of Culture in Delhi, he did not do the Trinamool any favours.” Calling Jawhar “selfish”, he also charged, “They are all self-centred and act in their own interests. When you get on a plane as an MP, get a salary of two lakh rupees a month, and leave during the party’s difficult times!”Hitting back, Jawhar said his family members and friends have urged him to quit politics, saying “I have never heard of this kind of insult in my life.”Amid increasing raids on its leaders by central agencies in connection with various scams, the TMC has cried foul, charging the BJP-led Centre with allegedly indulging in “vendetta” by using various agencies like “political weapons” against its rivals.However, a major intellectual section seems to be getting disillusioned with the TMC now. A senior theatre actor, who was an active participant in Mamata’s Singur-Nandigram movement, said, “Many like me have ethics and principles. So we had become part of this movement for a cause, but we cannot back the TMC now. The corruption cases against the TMC, especially the school jobs scam is very serious.”Some TMC leaders also referred to the point that in the wake of Mamata’s resounding victory against the BJP in the 2021 polls, several prominent leaders from various parties, including Yashwant Sinha, Pawan Verma and Ashok Tanwar, joined the party. “A few months ago, Verma and Tanwar resigned from TMC. In Tripura and Goa also, many of our leaders decided to quit although they had joined the party barely a year ago,” said a TMC leader. “We have suffered a loss of face in the intelligentsia class that had returned to our camp ahead of the 2021 polls. Various corruption cases and Rs 50 crore cash recovery from Partha Chatterjee’s aide have severely dented our image.”During the 2021 polls, a section of the state’s political parties had undertaken a “No vote to BJP” campaign, which had helped the TMC. The CPI(ML) Liberation’s Partha Ghosh said, “We campaigned for ‘No vote to BJP’. But we cannot support this TMC government. They are claiming that it is pro-people. Their slogan is ‘Ma Mati Manush’. But they are not clearing the dues of labourers under the MGNREGA scheme. Also, they are paying huge money to Durga Puja committees. This cannot be a policy of pro-people government. School jobs scam and other scandals showed how much this government has sunk into corruption. We have to now fight against both the BJP and TMC and strengthen the Left forces.”

Disquiet among Mamata’s intelligentsia allies as list of TMC leaders under cloud grows
  • Disquiet in Mamata allies among intelligentsia as list of TMC leaders under cloud grows
  • The Indian Express

    On September 1, when West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee led a rally in Kolkata as a thanksgiving gesture to the UNESCO for including the city’s Durga Puja in its Intangible Cultural Heritage list, she was accompanied by many TMC leaders and legislators including TV and film actors who got elected as party MLAs and MPs.Among the prominent faces who were conspicuous by their absence at this grand rally were independent writers, academics, painters, musicians and film and theatre personalities, such as Jogen Chowdhury, Aparna Sen, Nachiketa, Kaushik Sen, Arpita Ghosh and Sohini Sengupta among others, many of whom had rallied round Mamata during her landmark Singur and Nandigram movements in protest against the then CPI(M)-led Left Front regime’s land-acquisition policy.This group of intellectual and cultural figures had played a remarkable role in helping Mamata oust the 34-year Left regime from power in the 2011 Bengal Assembly polls. In the previous Assembly polls last year too they had strongly supported Mamata to keep the BJP at bay, whom they have always accused of allegedly practising the politics of communalism and polarisation.However, in worrying signs for the ruling TMC, these intellectuals and artists are now increasingly distancing themselves from the TMC dispensation as a slew of its leaders and functionaries have been allegedly implicated in various cases or scams after coming under the scanner of central agencies like the CBI and ED.On September 7, the state law and PWD minister Moloy Ghatak became the latest TMC leader to have been raided by a central agency, the CBI in this case, over his alleged involvement in a case of multi-crore coal smuggling from a state coalfield. Ghatak had already been summoned by the ED several times for questioning. Several TMC leaders, including the party’s national general secretary and Mamata’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee, are on the radar of the central agencies over this scam. Abhishek has also been questioned by the ED several times.On July 22, a day after the TMC’s martyrs day rally, the ED raided multiple places in Bengal and finally arrested the then education minister and TMC heavyweight Partha Chatterjee in connection with the school jobs scam. It also recovered Rs 50 crore cash from the apartments of Partha’s close aide Arpita Mukherjee and arrested her. Both of them have been in jail. Partha’s arrest shook the TMC, even as the seizure of such massive stashes of cash, whose videos went viral, shocked the people of the state.On August 11, the CBI arrested a close Mamata aide Anubrata Mondal, the TMC’s Birbhum district president, over a cattle smuggling case. On September 7, the CBI conducted raids and search operations at the premises of several Mondal associates.On September 3, the Halisahar municipality chairman and TMC leader, Raju Sahani, was arrested in a chit fund case. A day later, the CBI raided the houses of TMC MLA Subodh Adhikari and his brother and Kanchrapara municipality chairman Kamal Adhikari in the same case.Recently, the TMC Rajya Sabha MP and former Union culture secretary, Jawhar Sircar, admitted that “a section of the TMC was completely rotten” and that the party could not fight the saffron party in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections with the help of such elements.A fierce critic of the Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre, Sircar said the visuals of piles of cash recovered from Arpita’s houses were so outrageous that his family urged him to quit politics. “I couldn’t believe it when I saw it on TV. So much money can come out of someone’s house! Past imagination. Scenes of such corruption are rarely seen on TV,” he reportedly said.Sircar’s remarks sparked a row even as he drew flak from within the TMC. Senior party MP Sougata Roy said, “Jawhar Sircar did not walk in a Trinamool procession even for a day before becoming a Rajya Sabha MP. There are no sacrifices. When he was secretary of the Ministry of Culture in Delhi, he did not do the Trinamool any favours.” Calling Jawhar “selfish”, he also charged, “They are all self-centred and act in their own interests. When you get on a plane as an MP, get a salary of two lakh rupees a month, and leave during the party’s difficult times!”Hitting back, Jawhar said his family members and friends have urged him to quit politics, saying “I have never heard of this kind of insult in my life.”Amid increasing raids on its leaders by central agencies in connection with various scams, the TMC has cried foul, charging the BJP-led Centre with allegedly indulging in “vendetta” by using various agencies like “political weapons” against its rivals.However, a major intellectual section seems to be getting disillusioned with the TMC now. A senior theatre actor, who was an active participant in Mamata’s Singur-Nandigram movement, said, “Many like me have ethics and principles. So we had become part of this movement for a cause, but we cannot back the TMC now. The corruption cases against the TMC, especially the school jobs scam is very serious.”Some TMC leaders also referred to the point that in the wake of Mamata’s resounding victory against the BJP in the 2021 polls, several prominent leaders from various parties, including Yashwant Sinha, Pawan Verma and Ashok Tanwar, joined the party. “A few months ago, Verma and Tanwar resigned from TMC. In Tripura and Goa also, many of our leaders decided to quit although they had joined the party barely a year ago,” said a TMC leader. “We have suffered a loss of face in the intelligentsia class that had returned to our camp ahead of the 2021 polls. Various corruption cases and Rs 50 crore cash recovery from Partha Chatterjee’s aide have severely dented our image.”During the 2021 polls, a section of the state’s political parties had undertaken a “No vote to BJP” campaign, which had helped the TMC. The CPI(ML) Liberation’s Partha Ghosh said, “We campaigned for ‘No vote to BJP’. But we cannot support this TMC government. They are claiming that it is pro-people. Their slogan is ‘Ma Mati Manush’. But they are not clearing the dues of labourers under the MGNREGA scheme. Also, they are paying huge money to Durga Puja committees. This cannot be a policy of pro-people government. School jobs scam and other scandals showed how much this government has sunk into corruption. We have to now fight against both the BJP and TMC and strengthen the Left forces.”

In Goa, two Cong MLAs keep ‘defection pot’ simmering; TMC unveils new line-up
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

These may not be the best of times for two of Goa’s Opposition parties. After averting a split of its legislature party almost two months ago, two senior Congress MLAs still have the party guessing their next move. The Trinamool Congress (TMC), on the other hand, put in place a new state committee on Wednesday but left out former Chief Minister Luizinho Faleiro, its most prominent face in Goa.Earlier in the week, the state’s political circles were abuzz about senior Congress legislators Digambar Kamat, who is a former CM, and Michael Lobo quitting the Congress. In July, the Congress had sought their disqualification from the Assembly following the alleged attempt to get eight of the party’s 11 MLAs to switch to the BJP. The latest speculation about Kamat and Lobo’s future gathered steam after the two leaders recently visited Delhi.Kamat returned from the national Capital on Monday and the following day reiterated to the media that he had “retired hurt” and speculation about his exit had been fuelled by the local media. “Every time I go somewhere, whether it is Delhi or Mumbai or Nagpur, they ask me this. I bear my own expenses and travel. Am I supposed to tell them (media) every time where I go?” said the former CM.Asked if he plans to remain in the Congress, Kamat said, “I am again saying that right now I am retired hurt. When I get better I will return to active politics. I have also informed my leaders.”Lobo, who returned to the coastal state on Sunday evening, also scotched rumours of his exit from the Congress and alleged meetings with BJP leaders in Delhi. On Tuesday evening, the grapevine was bustling following a “meeting” between the MLA and CM Pramod Sawant. Later in the day, Sawant said all legislators, including those from the Opposition, routinely meet him to discuss development work related to their constituencies.In July, the Congress spent a tumultuous few days thwarting the alleged attempt to get its legislators to defect. The party squarely blamed Kamat and Lobo after they failed to turn up at a press conference at the Goa Congress House in Panaji on July 10.The following day, over 24 hours after he was labelled a “traitor” and “backstabber” by the party, Lobo was back at the Congress House for a meeting with, among others, All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Mukul Wasnik and Goa desk in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao, who had accused him and Kamat of conspiring with the BJP.Lobo, his MLA wife Delilah, and MLAs Kedar Naik and Rajesh Faldessai, all of whom had skipped the press conference, met Wasnik, Rao, and Goa Pradesh Congress Committee president Amit Patkar. After coming close to a 2019-like split of its legislature party, the Goa Congress appeared to have kept its flock together.Though the political storm seemed to have blown over at the time, doubts about the future of the two MLAs have not been put to rest. A petition to disqualify Kamat and Lobo that the Congress had filed before the Speaker during the July crisis is still pending. A week after the near-split, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on July 17 removed Kamat as a permanent invitee to the Congress Working Committee.With the Assembly and panchayat elections out of the way, attention will now turn to the parliamentary elections that are more than one-and-a-half years away. In the Goan political landscape, observers will keep their eyes on Kamat and Lobo who are likely to play a crucial role in the run-up to the contest for the state’s two parliamentary seats.Meanwhile, the TMC, which suffered a debacle in the Assembly polls earlier this year, announced a 38-member state committee. The TMC leader in charge of Goa, Kirti Azad, said two joint conveners had been appointed as per the party’s Constitution and added that there was no need for a state unit president.Asked why Luizinho Faleiro, the party’s Rajya Sabha MP who last October became the first Congress legislator in Goa to resign and join the TMC, had been left out, Azad said, “I can only speak for the people who are on the list. I can’t go beyond my brief.”The party has seen a series of exits since its Assembly poll debacle, with former state president Kiran Kandolkar also leaving it. Azad said in the coming months the TMC would raise issues relevant to Goans. “If the entire Opposition unites, then it will be very difficult for the BJP to form the government (in 2024) … The movement has already begun,” he added.

In Goa, two Cong MLAs keep ‘defection pot’ simmering; TMC unveils new line-up
Process to auction mines on in Goa: Union min to Parl
Times of India | 1 month ago | |
Times of India
1 month ago | |

Panaji: Union minister for coal and mines Pralhad Joshi informed the Parliament that the Goa government has initiated the process to auction off mineral blocks in Goa. He also said that the BJP-led state government in Goa has assured the Centre that it will “safeguard the welfare” of the mining-affected people.Joshi provided the information in response to a question raised by Trinamool Congress MP Luizinho Faleiro. Faleiro had asked the Centre about the efforts to restart iron ore mining in Goa.“As per the provisions of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, the state governments are responsible for grant of mineral concessions through a transparent e-auction process. The government of Goa has informed that the state will explore all possibilities to safeguard the welfare of the mining affected people,” said Joshi in a written reply.He also said that the Goa government has sanctioned Rs 110.2 crore as financial relief to barge owners, mining machinery owners and truck owners. Joshi also informed Faleiro that financial relief to 6,999 truck owners amounting to Rs 147.7 crore and assistance to 2,000 mining affected unemployed workers amounting to Rs 20.9 crore has been disbursed.Asked about the Shah Commission report, which had estimated Rs 35,000 crore of loss due to illegal mining, Joshi admitted that chartered accountants have estimated a more modest Rs 352.23 crore as the total dues owed by mining companies of which an amount of Rs 80.5 crore has been recovered.

Process to auction mines on in Goa: Union min to Parl
Formulate employment policy, TMC tells Goa government
Times of India | 1 month ago | |
Times of India
1 month ago | |

PANAJI: TMC on Friday criticised the BJP-led government for Goa’s high rate of unemployment. Addressing the press at the party office, functionaries Trajano D’Mello, Mariano Rodrigues and Pratibha Borkar said that the state government needs to formulate a comprehensive policy to generate employment and upskill local youth. TMC highlighted the reply given by Union minister of state for labour and employment, Rameshwar Teli, who informed the Rajya Sabha that Goa’s unemployment rate is higher than the national average. Teli provided the information in response to a question raised by TMC MP Luizinho Faleiro. “Goa TMC demands the BJP-led government comes up with a proper employment policy and to ensure that the same is implemented, to have gainful employment,” said D’Mello. Goa’s unemployment rate was 10.5% in 2020-21, which is more than double the national average of 4.2%. A recent CMIE report showed that Goa’s unemployment rate sharply increased from 11.6% in January to 13.7% in July. TMC blamed the BJP government, which has recently secured a third term in Goa, for Goa’s rising unemployment. “Chief minister Pramod Sawant has abdicated his responsibilities and is failing the people of Goa. The government is no longer in a position to assure jobs to the people of Goa and by blaming the teachers, the chief minister is using them as a scapegoat to hide his incompetence,” said D’Mello. While Sawant has blamed Goa’s teachers for the falling academic standards and grades, D’Mello blamed the government for not motivating students to pursue higher education. “The government has failed to motivate the youth to pursue higher education. Even graduates in the state are unemployed,” said D’Mello. TMC said that Goa’s education system has fallen behind, and does not impart the required skills to make Goan youth employable. “Rather than focusing on improving the education system, the government is busy rewriting history. The BJP government cannot keep silent on the matter. They have failed to create more jobs,” said D’Mello.

Formulate employment policy, TMC tells Goa government
West Bengal to get seven new districts; total now 30
The Indian Express | 1 month ago | |
The Indian Express
1 month ago | |

The West Bengal Cabinet on Monday approved the setting up of seven new districts in the state, taking the total number of districts to 30, up from the existing 23.Announcing the Cabinet decision, the Chief Minister said the seven districts will be carved out of five existing districts — Murshidabad, Nadia, South and North 24 Parganas, and Bankura.A new Sundarban district will be carved out of both South and North 24 Parganas districts; two new districts, Ichhamati in Bongaon subdivision and a yet unnamed district in Basirhat, will be created out of North 24 Parganas district; Ranaghat, a city and municipality in Nadia district, will become the fourth new district; a new district of Bishnupur will be carved out of the existing Bankura district; and two new districts of Baharampur and Kandi will be created out of Murshidabad district.Sources in the state administration said the new districts were created to streamline administrative operations. “It is purely an administrative decision. The Chief Minister wanted to decentralise the system and that is why she went in for smaller districts. Earlier, the government had carved out Kalimpong from Darjeeling, Jhargram from West Midnapore and split Burdwan into East and West districts.”Dismissing reports of a possible dissolution of the state Cabinet, CM Banerjee said she would carry out a reshuffle and fill in key vacancies. She added that the new ministers – four to five of them – would take oath Wednesday evening.“Subrata Mukherjee and Sadhan Pandey are no more. Partha da (Partha Chatterjee) is in jail. They had held important departments like panchayat, industry, consumer affairs and many more. I cannot take any more pressure. So I have to get some new faces in the Cabinet. Some leaders will be sent to the party organisation too.”Sources also said the revamped Cabinet will have TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee’s imprint, and will have young faces.Babul Supriyo, Partha Bhowmick, Udayan Guha, Snehasish Chakraborty are among the young faces who may be included in the Cabinet. Sources also said minister Paresh Adhikari, whose name features in the teacher recruitment scam, and another senior minister, Soumen Mahapatra, may be dropped from the Cabinet.

West Bengal to get seven new districts; total now 30
  • Explained: 7 new districts in West Bengal — how and why are districts created or abolished in India?
  • The Indian Express

    The West Bengal cabinet has approved the creation of seven new districts in the state, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Monday (August 1). This will take the number of districts in West Bengal to 30 from the existing 23.The Chief Minister told a press conference that a new Sundarban district will be carved out of South 24-Parganas district; two new districts will be created out of North 24-Parganas district — Ichhamati in Bongaon subdivision and a yet unnamed district in Basirhat; Ranaghat, a city and municipality in Nadia district, will become the fourth new district; a new district of Bishnupur will be carved out of the existing Bankura district; and two new districts of Baharampur and Jangipur will be created out of Murshidabad district.Hon’ble Chief Minister @MamataOfficial announces the creation of 7 new districts in Bengal for greater administrative efficiency.The 7 new districts include – Sundarban, Ichamati, Ranaghat, Bishnupur, Jangipur, Berhampore and one more in Basirhat, to be announced soon. pic.twitter.com/1f9nqvIejr— All India Trinamool Congress (@AITCofficial) August 1, 2022Why have these districts been created?States keep creating new districts from time to time. The idea everywhere is, generally, that smaller units would make governance easier and would benefit the people by bringing the government and the administration closer to them, and making them more accessible. Sometimes, the decision to create a new district is driven by local demands.In April this year, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy virtually inaugurated 13 new districts in his state, fulfilling a promise that he had made during his Assembly election campaign in 2019. Reddy had long maintained that decentralisation and smaller administrative units bring better and more transparent governance, and smoother and more effective delivery of welfare.These same reasons would be applicable to West Bengal too. As per Census 2011 figures, almost 4 million people lived in each of West Bengal’s 23 districts on average — among the highest in the country.By contrast, before Reddy doubled the number of districts to 26, Andhra Pradesh had only 13 districts, with about 2 million people — half the number in West Bengal — living in each on average, as per the 2011 Census. In West Bengal, South 24-Parganas district sprawls over almost 10,000 sq km; North 24-Parganas is about 4,000 sq km in area — with populations of more than 8 million and more than 10 million each (2011).Who decides on creating or scrapping districts, or changing their boundaries?This power lies with the state governments, who can pass a law in the Assembly or simply issue an order and notify it in the gazette. The Centre does not have a say in the matter.The central government does play a role, however, when a change of name of a district or railway station is contemplated. The request of the state government in this regard is sent to several central government departments before a no-objection certificate is issued.Have Indian states been creating a lot of new districts?Yes, the number of districts around the country has been going up steadily over the years. The 2001 Census recorded 593 districts, which went up to 640 in 2011. India currently has more than 775 districts.Uttar Pradesh has the most districts (75) in the country, followed by Madhya Pradesh (52). Goa, by contrast, has only 2 districts. However, the number of districts in a state is not always a function of the area of the state, or of its population.West Bengal, for example, has 42 Lok Sabha MPs but only 30 districts even after the addition of the 7 new districts, and Andhra Pradesh, even after the recent doubling of the number of districts to 26, has only one more district than the number of Lok Sabha seats. Tamil Nadu, which has 39 MPs in Lok Sabha — after only Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, and West Bengal — has one fewer district.In general, the largest districts in India by area cover sparsely populated areas — for example, Kachchh in Gujarat, and Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Barmer, and Jodhpur in Rajasthan.

‘Controversial Old Goa bungalow in protected zone’
Times of India | 1 month ago | |
Times of India
1 month ago | |

Panaji: A written reply in the Rajya Sabha by the Union government stating that the controversial bungalow at Old Goa was built in violation of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, is perhaps a further endorsement of action taken by state departments.Union minister for tourism and culture, G Kishan Reddy in a written reply to Trinamool Congress MP, Luizinho Faleiro, on July 29 stated that the building is within the protected area of St Cajetan Church and that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has issued showcause notices to the project promoter.The Union government’s reply throws light on several incorrect statements about the illegal bungalow at Old Goa. A few MLAs said during the recent assembly debate that the construction falls in the buffer zone, at a distance of less than 300m, from the ASI monument — the Church of St Cajetan.“The buffer zone does not apply here, as the plot of survey no 4/1 has been statutorily listed as the protected area of the Largo of St Cajetan and connected ruins,” architect and heritage activist, Tahir Noronha, said.Activists have also disagreed with town and country planning (TCP) minister Vishwajit Rane’s statement that TCP only gave permission to the bungalow after the National Monument Authority (NMA) did.On June 1, 1968, ASI had declared the plot of survey no 4/1 as the Largo’s protected area along with other monuments in Old Goa after seeking public opinion. The buffer zones were introduced only after the ASI act was amended in 2011, which also envisaged setting up of the NMA for scrutinising construction activity between 100 and 300m from the protected area. “NMA has no jurisdiction in this plot (of the bungalow) and as per RTI replies, no central government department gave permission before the TCP did,” Noronha said.In a written reply to AAP MLA Cruz Silva, the TCP has projected an ASI letter from 2020 as NMA permission. “ASI and NMA are two different departments,” he said.

‘Controversial Old Goa bungalow in protected zone’
  • Raze illegal bungalow at Old Goa: TMC
  • Times of India

    Panaji: While the Centre has been forced to admit that an unauthorised bungalow has come up close to the Old Goa Unesco heritage site, the state government continues to delay action against the structure, said TMC on Saturday. It also questioned the BJP-led government’s failure to demolish the structure, and demanded immediate action.Union minister for tourism and culture G Krishan Reddy, in a reply to TMC national vice-president Luizinho Faleiro, admitted that laws were violated when the structure came up.Highlighting Reddy’s statement, Goa TMC functionaries Trajano D’Mello, Samil Volvaiker and Pratibha Borkar launched a scathing attack on the government for its inaction and failure to take a clear stand on the matter.Volvaiker said that more than seven months have lapsed since the case was filed before the director of panchayats. “The failure of the panchayat department to demolish the structure only brings to the fore BJP government’s vested interests,” he said. tnn

In Partha Chatterjee’s eclipse, the rising sun of Abhishek Banerjee
The Indian Express | 1 month ago | |
The Indian Express
1 month ago | |

Dropping of Partha Chatterjee as Cabinet minister, stripping of all government and party portfolios from him, and his suspension, all within nine days of his arrest in a school recruitment scam. The speed and unprecedented nature of the Trinamool Congress’s action against one of its topmost leaders has the fingerprints of Abhishek Banerjee all over it.The TMC’s all-India general secretary and fast-rising star, Abhishek has been biding his time in the wings, mindful of aunt Mamata Banerjee’s old guard. But the embarrassment of Chatterjee’s arrest and the alleged crores pouring out of premises linked to him, coming on top of other setbacks to the TMC, have cleared an opening for him to move in.Reacting to the TMC’s action against him, Chatterjee did not hide his displeasure Friday. “Mamata did the right thing, but I am a victim of conspiracy. What the party has done, time will tell whether it is right or not,” he said.In the days following the TMC’s triumphal return to power in West Bengal last year, Abhishek had been tasked with primarily helping the party grow outside the state. However, that project has sputtered following the setbacks in Goa and Tripura, bringing Abhishek’s focus back to Bengal.In recent days, he has not been constrained by lack of seniority, and has taken on a public profile as the TMC’s main troubleshooter, and policy spokesperson. It was he who came out to make the surprise announcement that the TMC, which had taken the lead on a united Opposition candidate for president, would not back a joint vice-president nominee. Mamata, who Opposition leaders said had committed to standing with them, was nowhere to be seen.After Chatterjee was removed as minister Thursday, it was Abhishek again who held a disciplinary committee meeting, where it was decided that the senior leader would also be removed as TMC secretary general.The same day, Abhishek called up protesters agitating against the school scam, including those aspirants looking for jobs, to assure that the government was with them. On Saturday, he held a meeting with them.A senior TMC leader admitted they were surprised at the pace at which things moved against Chatterjee, given that the party never reacted with such alacrity in similar cases before. “Even as the Opposition intensified the demand for Chatterjee’s expulsion from the ministry, similar demand rose from within the party. On Thursday morning, spokesperson Kunal Ghosh (seen as close to Abhishek) sought his removal. They said that the huge recovery of money (from premises linked to Chatterjee) had already tarnished the image of the TMC, and while his removal might not minimise that, at least people would know the TMC does not accept it. But, senior leaders of the party hesitated. Abhishek then quickly took the decision and succeeded in making senior leaders, including Mamata, understand that this is the only way now.”In fact, for the past few months, the Abhishek camp has been at pains to project their 34-year-old leader as a crusader against corruption. This comes against the backdrop of cases against Abhishek and his wife Rujira in an alleged coal smuggling case.Even Abhishek’s rain-drenched speech on the TMC’s July 21 Martyrs Day event – a highlight in the party’s calendar – emphasised that the party would crack the whip on wrongdoers.While there was talk of some tension between Abhishek and Mamata earlier this year, around the time of the civic polls, party leaders say it would be foolhardy to believe the nephew’s purposeful stride now doesn’t have the aunt’s blessing. In case of Chatterjee for example, despite him being one of her closest and oldest lieutenants, Mamata has not made any overtures after the recovery of alleged crores made his position untenable. Sources in the Enforcement Directorate, which has the custody of Chatterjee, claimed that Mamata had ignored repeated calls from him.In contrast, in May 2021, when the CBI had arrested top TMC leaders, including two ministers, in connection with the Narada sting case, Mamata had sat on a dharna demanding their release. The TMC did not take any action against other leaders such as MP Tapas Paul, out on bail after arrest in the Rose Valley ponzi scam case, and MP Sudip Bandopadhyay, also arrested in the case. Madan Mitra remains a minister more than year after he was arrested in the Sarada chit fund case.Said a veteran TMC leader: “The message is clear, especially to old guards at the top. If you slip, the party will no longer be there to hold your hand. The recovery of cash allowed Abhishek to take charge, and through quick action, he is seen to have minimised the damage to the party’s image… Some leaders are unhappy and scared, but who will say that?”This is a departure from January, when Abhishek’s Covid stance that was distinct from the TMC government’s and the touting of his ‘Diamond Harbour’ model – Diamond Harbour is Abhishek’s constituency – had caused the old guard to register their objections with Mamata. Prashant Kishor’s I-PAC, which had rubbed many of them the wrong way with its inputs, was also seen as Abhishek’s import to the TMC.Mamata had finally dissolved all the national portfolios of the TMC, and as chairperson, formed a fresh national working committee. She had also ignored Abhishek’s suggestion that relatives of those with a tainted background not be given tickets for civic polls, or that the party implement a one man-one post formula, or that religious events be postponed on account of Covid restrictions. His talk of “coercion-free” civic polls at the time was seen as an endorsement of the Opposition’s accusations of high-handedness against the TMC.The Opposition in Bengal has said action against Chatterjee was not enough and more heads must roll within the TMC. CPM leader Sujan Chakraborty said, “The money that we have seen is just the tip of the iceberg. Thousands of crores were looted. That money should be recovered. Pending that, our movement will continue.”BJP leader Amit Malaviya took credit for Chatterjee’s suspension: “BJP’s massive protest against #SSCScam shook Mamata Banerjee’s citadel and forced her to sack corrupt Partha Chaterjee from the Cabinet and party positions, after digging in heels for as long as she could,” he tweeted.

In Partha Chatterjee’s eclipse, the rising sun of Abhishek Banerjee
Arrest of a minister, a lesson for Mamata Banerjee
The Indian Express | 1 month ago | |
The Indian Express
1 month ago | |

In November 2015, after the results of the Bihar assembly elections, Nitish Kumar was arguably the most likely prime ministerial candidate to oppose Narendra Modi. The chimaera of “opposition unity” too seemed to be a concrete proposition. Nitish, despite being the junior partner in the Mahagathbandhan (the RJD had 80 seats in the assembly, JDU, 21 and Congress, 27), was chief minister once more. His gamble – of abandoning long-time ally BJP, and resigning as CM after an abysmal performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections – paid off. Most importantly, he seemed willing to work with old foes; to sacrifice his ego and compromise on his style of politics and governance for a larger political goal.Less than two years later, the Bihar CM quit the Mahagathbandhan and joined hands with the BJP overnight, once again. Today, his stature as a national leader — someone to head a coalition to oppose the formidable political dominance of the BJP-RSS — is greatly diminished.In Nitish’s decisions – and the story of her own rise to power — lies a political parable that Mamata Banerjee would do well to heed.Just two days before the Enforcement Directorate arrested West Bengal minister Partha Chatterjee, Mamata Banerjee took the surprising decision to instruct the Trinamool Congress’s 221 MLAs, 23 Lok Sabha MPs and 13 Rajya Sabha MPs to abstain from choosing between Jagdeep Dhankhar and Margaret Alva for the post of Vice-President of India. The TMC’s stated reason for not backing the Opposition candidate appears to stem from a petulance about propriety: “You can’t spring a name upon us at 10 minutes’ notice… We are the second largest opposition party in Parliament, and I’m sure we will grow bigger after the 2024 elections,” Derek O’Brien told this newspaper.Perhaps O’Brien has a point. The 2021 Bengal election – pitched almost as a head-to-head battle between the PM and Banerjee – has been perhaps the only major political setback for the BJP since 2019. The TMC, given its position in an electorally significant state – Bengal has the most number of Lok Sabha seats after UP and Maharashtra – must be a pillar of any national opposition formation. Yet, if the party wants to fulfil its national ambitions, it must do more than field candidates in Goa.The scandal around Chatterjee’s arrest by the ED, the unseemly statements by his aide Arpita Mukherjee are unlikely to endear the TMC to the people of Bengal, let alone the rest of India. Unfortunately, this latest episode is not a one-off. The Sharada and Narada scams, and the overwhelming presence of the TMC-backed “syndicate” (the CPM leadership did not have a reputation for indulging in financial corruption) in the state’s economic and political life are not features that inspire confidence. Unlike Nitish Kumar, or even Arvind Kejriwal’s “Delhi model”, Mamata Banerjee does not have a governance story to sell to the rest of the country. That is not to say that Banerjee and the TMC cannot overcome their shortcomings. To do so would require, first and foremost, cleaning house internally (Banerjee has the political mandate and power within her party to do so) and living up to the moral high ground it takes vis a vis the Centre. On the national stage, the TMC needs to display that it has the political maturity and ideological vision to hold together disparate forces. Banerjee, for her part, needs to show the same single-mindedness she did before she became CM to be more than just a regional satrap.The TMC has the potential to be more than just a regional party. It is, after all, an off-shoot of the Congress and not, in its essence, a party based on linguistic identity (the most hopeful Congress sympathisers dream of a reunion between the TMC, INC and NCP – with Sharad Pawar as party president and Banerjee as the PM candidate). The growing presence of Bengali workers across India can provide a foothold for the party beyond the state. Equally significant is the fact that with some exceptions, the TMC’s secular credentials are bona fide. Unlike, say, the Aam Aadmi Party, it has not celebrated the Ram Temple at Ayodhya or set up schemes to send “pilgrims” to the site where the Babri Masjid was destroyed. But what is most significant for the Opposition’s prospects is Banerjee’s political history and ability.It is easy to forget now that the CPM-led left in Bengal was once the most dominant electoral, ideological and organisational political force in any state in India. Its 37 years in power made it the longest-serving democratically-elected communist government in history.Banerjee – first as a young Congress leader and then with the founding of the TMC – fought this force and its vast cadre on the street. She was there at every protest, bore the brunt of severe violence and even when there was little prospect of unseating the CPM, she and her party ensured that when they were present, as the eventual alternative when the bastion falls. Even now, the TMC’s most significant political rally takes place on July 21 – “Martyrs’ Day” – to commemorate the killing of 13 Congress workers who were protesting the CPM’s electoral practices in 1993. Banerjee herself was injured. But her political credentials and modus operandi were set that day. They were visible in the Singur and Nandigram agitations, and eventually led her to the CM’s chair.The Left, for better or worse, stands diminished. But the BJP and RSS are a far greater force – in terms of ideological zeal, cadre, organisation, resources and the perceived use of state agencies to target political opponents. On paper, Banerjee’s record makes her the perfect candidate to lead the charge against this dominant force. But to do so, she must build bridges. The TMC alone is in no position to challenge the BJP beyond Bengal. In the state, too, a divided Opposition could mean the party’s days in office are numbered (the BJP, despite its loss in 2021, has seen a phenomenal rise in both vote- and seat-share in West Bengal since 2014).The state’s economic stagnation and the lack of industrialisation continue to be a problem. The political violence that has marred Bengal’s politics, according to many, has continued and even grown under TMC rule. And the fact remains that Nitish Kumar’s hailing from a Hindi-speaking state was an asset. Banerjee may have more seats and votes in Bengal, but she needs friends across parties to help her broaden the TMC’s appeal.The TMC may believe that its electoral victories are immune to corruption charges. Or, perhaps, that it is best to “abstain” from opposing the BJP to stay in power in Bengal until the saffron tide ebbs from much of the rest of the country. Or that its political future is so secure that it can break ranks over the VP candidate even as the Opposition tried to rally around the party’s erstwhile vice-president for the post of President of India. But Mamata Banerjee ought to know – better than almost any other leader in Indian politics today – that combating the hegemony of an ideological party requires constant work. With another corruption allegation – this time against one of the most senior TMC ministers – the CM needs to recognise that she does not hold all the cards. She must negotiate and build bridges with the rest of the Opposition in good faith.She can certainly go the Nitish Kumar way – and let ego and the crises and contradictions of coalition politics distract her from the larger national political picture. And given the fact that power has not made the Sangh complacent – every election is fought as though it is a make-or-break one – the only sustainable accommodation she will get from the BJP is likely to be similar to Nitish Kumar’s stature in Bihar: A diminished leader, ruling under the suzerainty of Delhi. The firebrand of Bengal is unlikely to be happy with that position.aakash.joshi@expressindia.com

Arrest of a minister, a lesson for Mamata Banerjee
Ex-union minister Margaret Alva is Opposition’s vice presidential candidate
The Indian Express | 2 months ago | |
The Indian Express
2 months ago | |

Opposition parties announced Sunday that former Union minister and governor Margaret Alva is their candidate for the vice-presidential election scheduled to be held next month.The decision was taken at a meeting held at NCP president Sharad Pawar’s residence.Announcing the decision, Pawar said that 17 Opposition parties have unanimously decided on Margaret Alva’s name.Alva, a five-term Member of Parliament, has served as a minister at the Centre and as the governor of Goa.The opposition leaders’ meeting, which began at 3 pm and continued till 4:30 pm, was attended by Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of Opposition, Rajya Sabha; DMK’s TR Baalu; Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut; CPI leader D Raja; CPI leader Binoy Viswam; Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) leader Vaiko; TRS member Keshav Rao; Samajwadi Party leader Prof. Ram Gopal Yadav; CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury; IUML member ET Mohammed Basheer; and RJD’s Amarendra Dhari Singh.However, no one was present in the meeting from the Trinamool Congress which is the second largest opposition party in the Rajya Sabha. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also did not attend the meeting.On Saturday, the BJP had announced West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar as the NDA’s vice-presidential candidate.The election for the office of Vice-President of India will be held on August 6 and the counting will take place on the same day. The last date to file a nomination is July 19.The term of office of Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu is ending on August 10. This will be the 16th Vice-Presidential election in the country.As per article 66 of the Constitution, the Vice-President is elected by an Electoral College, which consists of the members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha (both elected and nominated members).On June 21, the Opposition parties had announced Yashwant Sinha as their candidate for the presidential elections to be held on July 18. It was after this that the BJP had named Droupadi Murmu as the NDA’s candidate for the presidential polls.

Ex-union minister Margaret Alva is Opposition’s vice presidential candidate
Eyeing Gujarat, Himachal polls, AAP goes with Yashwant Sinha for President
The Indian Express | 2 months ago | |
The Indian Express
2 months ago | |

After keeping everyone guessing for nearly a month, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Saturday announced its support for the joint Opposition’s candidate Yashwant Sinha in the July 18 Presidential election, infusing some energy in the dispirited Opposition camp whose presidential campaign had seemed to be unravelling.The Delhi Chief Minister and AAP national convenor, Arvind Kejriwal, chaired a meeting of the 11-member AAP Political Affairs Committee (PAC), the party’s highest decision-making body, at his residence during the day, where it was decided that the AAP’s MLAs and MPs will vote for Sinha for the President’s post.On June 21, after declaring Sinha’s candidature, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)’s supremo Sharad Pawar had told reporters that the AAP, despite staying away from the Opposition’s meetings on the issue, will back the former Union minister in the Presidential poll. The Kejriwal-led party, however, chose not to reveal its cards till the eleventh hour. In fact, when Sinha visited Chandigarh earlier this week as part of his whirlwind tour across states for his campaign, he did not have any meeting with the AAP’s Punjab MLAs, which kept the suspense alive.“The AAP will contest the Assembly polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh this year, where the BJP is in power and the Congress is the principal Opposition. It made no sense for the party to give a handle to the Congress to whip up the narrative that AAP is BJP’s B-team,” a senior AAP leader told The Indian Express.The AAP is, however, also mindful of the symbolism projected by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP)-led NDA’s Presidential nominee Droupadi Murmu, who is set to become the country’s first-ever tribal occupant of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. So while announcing the decision to support Sinha’s candidature, the party leader and Rajya Sabha MP, Sanjay Singh, sought to address this aspect of the Presidential contest too.“We have respect for the BJP’s candidate Droupadi Murmu as well, but in the election we will support the Opposition’s Presidential face,” Singh told reporters after the PAC’s meeting that was also attended by Manish Sisodia, Atishi, Durgesh Pathak and Raghav Chadha, among other senior AAP leaders. Singh had met Pawar In Mumbai ahead of the Opposition parties’ first joint meeting last month.In the Opposition camp, the AAP is the only party besides the Congress that has its government in more than one state. The ruling party in Delhi and Punjab, the AAP accounts for nearly 1.96 per cent votes in the Presidential electoral college. The value of the votes of the party’s 10 Rajya Sabha MPs is 7,000, while its MLAs from Delhi (62), Punjab (92) and Goa (2) bring a collective vote value of 14,308 in the Presidential poll.The AAP’s pledge to support Sinha would ensure he gets over 4 lakh votes, even as Murmu is comfortably poised to sail through the election by expectedly garnering at least 6.60 lakh votes.Even in 2017, when the AAP ruled only Delhi and was the principal Opposition in Punjab, the party had declared its support for the then Congress-led Opposition’s Presidential candidate Meira Kumar just three days before the election. However, the Congress had kept the AAP away from the meetings of 17 Opposition parties, where Kumar’s name was decided.This time, although the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the NCP steered these Opposition deliberations, the AAP stayed away from them despite being invited. AAP sources attributed it to the party’s “discomfort” in sharing any common platform with the Congress. It also does want to be seen being led by parties like the TMC, which is also looking to occupy the space being vacated by a drifting Congress in a bid to emerge as the principal challenger to the BJP in national politics.“The AAP has made it abundantly clear through its moves that politically it wants to grow by strengthening the perception that it is different from others. Being a part of large groups with no shared values except opposing the BJP does not help the AAP,” the source said.The AAP has also attended the Opposition’s joint events in the past, though. In 2018, Kejriwal was among the top Opposition leaders who attended the swearing-in ceremony of Janata Dal (Secular) leader H D Kumaraswamy as the Karnataka CM with the Congress as his senior ally.Kejriwal was also present at a TMC-organised joint Opposition rally in Kolkata in 2019. In February 2019, the AAP also hosted a “Save Democracy” rally at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, where Kejriwal shared dais with the Congress’s Anand Sharma, among other leaders. But the AAP’s drubbing in the 2019 general elections, during which the party had made an unsuccessful bid for an alliance with the Congress, forced its rethink on its equation with the grand old party.

Eyeing Gujarat, Himachal polls, AAP goes with Yashwant Sinha for President
  • Presidential polls: AAP announces support for Opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha
  • The Indian Express

    The Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Saturday said that it will support Opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha for the Presidential elections scheduled on July 18.“AAP will support Opposition’s Presidential candidate Yashwant Sinha. We respect Droupadi Murmu but we will vote for Yashwant Sinha,” AAP MP Sanjay Singh said following the party’s political affairs committee (PAC) meeting.Besides AAP, the ruling TRS in Telangana has also extended its support to the candidature of joint opposition nominee Sinha.The meeting was attended by AAP national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, Sanjay Singh, Punjab MP Raghav Chadha, MLA Atishi, and other members of the PAC.Voting for the Presidential poll will take place on Monday. The AAP is the only non-BJP, non-Congress outfit having governments in two states — Delhi and Punjab.It has 10 Rajya Sabha MPs from the two states including three from Delhi. Also, the party has a total 156 MLAs including 92 in Punjab, 62 in Delhi and two in Goa.

Newsmaker | Digambar Kamat, the sulking Goa veteran now at the centre of Cong ‘rebellion’
The Indian Express | 2 months ago | |
The Indian Express
2 months ago | |

In April, soon after the elections, the Congress made 68-year-old Digambar Kamat, the most senior of its 11 in MLAs a permanent member of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s top decision making body.However, Kamat wasn’t happy. Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the previous Assembly, he was divested of responsibilities in the state as part of the Congress’s bid to promote its Gen Next leaders – while 38-year-old Amit Patkar was made president of the Goa Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC), Micheal Lobo, a BJP leader who joined the party just ahead of the Assembly election, was made leader of the legislature party.Kamat, the veteran who had been at the forefront of the Congress’s activities in Goa, has taken a backseat since then, describing himself as “retired hurt”.Ahead of the elections in February, Kamat was the only MLA the Congress had with it from among the 17 who were elected in the 2017 Assembly elections – while 10 MLAs defected to the BJP in 2019, veteran Pratap Singh Rane backed out ahead of the election, one joined the BJP and the other the TMC, and one MLA contested as an Independent.As party veteran and as someone who had stayed with the party when its fortunes hit rock-bottom, Kamat was seen the frontrunner for the CM post had Congress formed the government. Kamat had served as chief minister of Goa from 2007 to 2012, the last Congress government in the state.While Kamat was not named chief ministerial candidate, he had kept his hopes alive as AICC Goa in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao had said, “Everyone knows who will be the Chief Minister if the Congress forms the government.”Kamat has been elected from his fortress of Margao seven times, during which he has oscillated between the Congress and the BJP. While his journey began in the Congress, Kamat joined the BJP in 1994 and won two elections as the party’s candidate from the party. In 2005, he joined the Congress once again. In 2007, with opinion divided on whether to choose Ravi Naik or Pratapsingh Rane as CM, the party finally named Kamat as a ‘compromise’. Kamat had joined the Congress two years before he was made CM for his second stint and was reportedly instrumental in bringing down the Manohar Parrikar-led BJP government in 2005.Before becoming CM in June 2007, Kamat served as the state’s minister for power, urban development, mines and art and culture.His chief ministership was, however, chequered. Kamat was accused in a case of bribery under sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. Along with then PWD minister Churchill Alemao, Kamat was also booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Alemao was PWD minister from 2007 to 2012 when officials of the US-based company Louis Berger allegedly paid bribes to win a consultancy bid for water augmentation and a sewerage pipeline project in Goa under the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The case under the PMLA is being probed by the Enforcement Directorate and a court has framed charges against both Kamat and Alemao.Kamat, who served as mining minister of the state for 10 years, was in 2012 indicted by a judicial commission for reportedly allowing illegal mining in the state.Before he made his debut as MLA in 1995, Kamat had served as a councillor of the Margao Municipal Council from 1985 to 1990. Kamat, who has interests in real estate, described himself as an ‘agriculturist’ in his election affidavit and declared moveable assets worth Rs 6.87 crore and immovable assets worth Rs 3.21 crore. He holds a BSc degree from Mumbai University.

Newsmaker | Digambar Kamat, the sulking Goa veteran now at the centre of Cong ‘rebellion’