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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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.
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.
As it appeared likely on Sunday afternoon that some Congress MLAs in Goa could switch sides and its legislature party could split, the Trinamool Congress decided to rush its senior leader Derek O’Brien to Panaji. No, the TMC doesn’t have any MLAs in Goa and has no stakes in the defection saga.The TMC, which had contested the Goa Assembly elections earlier this year in a big way and managed to get around 8% of the vote share, wanted to seize the opportunity to reiterate its campaign message that the Congress and BJP are the same and the two parties are playing a game of musical chairs.But the Congress high command waited and watched, as the sordid political drama unfolded in Goa. It was only midnight that it decided to send senior leader Mukul Wasnik to Panaji on a firefighting mission.It is not that the Congress leadership was caught unawares. “We knew the BJP was planning to make all our 11 MLAs defect. We had heard the rumours about Digambar Kamat meeting Amit Shah in Delhi,” a senior Congress leader said, while pointing out that they had managed to avoid a split. “We worked hard to avert a two-third defection. The BJP could not get eight MLAs (to achieve that). Five of our MLAs stood strongly with us,” the leader added.Another leader pointed out that AICC in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao was in Goa holding meetings with MLAs.However, that matters came to such a pass is for many leaders another proof of the high command’s failures.“The decision to appoint 38-year-old Amit Patkar, who is a close associate of his predecessor Girish Chodankar, as the PCC president and Michael Lobo, who joined the Congress just before the elections, as Leader of the Opposition obviously upset Kamat. How could you appoint a person who has just joined the party to such a post? He should not have been inducted into the Congress in the first place. What message did we give to the rank and file?” a leader said.The counter-argument is that making Lobo the Leader of the Opposition was an insurance that he would stay in the party – an argument that had no feet on Sunday as Lobo’s name led those in the rebel group.A section of the party also wondered how the high command could persist with Rao as the in-charge. “He is a lightweight. The party should have deputed someone senior who could deal with the likes of Kamat,” one leader said.But the listlessness in the Congress is not confined to Goa. Take the case of West Bengal. The party has not appointed a full-time in-charge for the state since Jitin Prasada left and joined the BJP a year ago. “There is too much casualness,” one leader said. In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, it is yet to appoint a new PCC chief.The Chintan Shivir in Udaipur in mid-May was supposed to inject a fresh dose of enthusiasm in the party, and to revitalise it. But, there has been no let-up in the party hurtling from one crisis to another.First, even as the shivir was underway, senior Punjab leader Sunil Jakhar quit. The next big blow was the exit of Hardik Patel in the Assembly election-bound Gujarat. The next high-profile exit was that of Kapil Sibal, followed by Brajesh Kalappa in Karnataka. Then, Congress candidate Ajay Maken lost the Rajya Sabha election in Haryana due to cross voting.In Maharashtra too, the Congress has been jittery. Seven of its MLAs cross-voted in the MLC elections and, following the Sena split, 11 were “absent” in the trust vote that was held. The party is yet to take action against them, even as calls are growing for the same.BJP Wanted A Two-Third SplitProud that our MLAs have resisted and remained with us. They were offered huge amounts of money to defect. pic.twitter.com/NQmuiG34wX— Goa Congress (@INCGoa) July 10, 2022In Haryana, while the party removed Kuldeep Bishnoi for cross-voting in the Rajya Sabha polls, it has yet to take action against a second MLA for the same. Bishnoi is all set to join the BJP.Congress leaders fear that trouble could come next from Jharkhand, where the party shares power with the JMM. Among rumours that the BJP is up to something in the state, the JMM has been flexing its muscles.While one leader said they had talked to the MLAs and that, “as of now, there is no reason to worry”, others do not share the optimism. According to them, two scenarios can follow. “The JMM could walk out of the alliance and join hands with the BJP. They have already snubbed us twice. They unilaterally announced their candidate for the Rajya Sabha elections,” one leader said, adding that the JMM may also end up supporting the NDA candidate in the presidential elections.A second section of leaders suspect that several MLAs (at least eight, according to one leader) are in touch with the BJP. If the number goes up to 12, then the breakaway faction would reach the two-third mark to escape provisions of the anti-defection law.While things may appear to be out of Congress hands in the matter, party leaders say it is this wait and watch, before a crisis blows up in the face, that is killing the party.
Trinamool Congress MP who courted controversy over her emark son Goddess Kaali, a Karnataka Congress MLA now under ACB lens, national president of the NCP students’ wing, and Uttar Pradesh’s deputy chief minister — we bring to you the Newsmakers of the Week.Trinamool Congress MP Mahua MoitraFacing an FIR and several police cases across the country over her remarks on a controversy over a film poster featuring Goddess Kaali, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra remained defiant. On Wednesday, Moitra tweeted: “Jai Ma Kali! The goddess Bengalis worship is fearless & non-appeasing.” While her remarks were endorsed by a large number of the TMC’s young social media volunteers, Moitra may find the support dry up soon. With its vigorous invocation of Bengali sub-nationalism at odds with its plans to expand in other regions, the TMC was quick to officially distance itself from Moitra’s remarks. While it was precisely her fiery oratory and articulation that fuelled Moitra’s meteoric rise in the TMC after she joined it in 2010 – with the party looking for faces to represent it in the national capital – her star has been on the decline.Karnataka Congress MLA Zameer Ahmed KhanEarly this week, as visuals of the Karnataka Anti-Corruption Bureau’s (ACB) raid on the properties of Congress MLA Zameer Ahmed Khan came in, many were struck by the opulence of his three-storeyed house in Bengaluru’s Cantonment area – complete with tall columns, arches and chandeliers. Among Karnataka’s richest MLAs, Zameer’s family runs National Travels, a transport business that runs a fleet of inter-state services. Zameer’s supporters in the party and his family, however, questioned the timing of the raids and alleged that the BJP government was trying to divert attention from two high-profile arrests. Read Kiran Parashar’s report on the Karnataka MLA who started his career in the JD(S) and was among those who left the party with Siddaramaiah to join the Congress.Sonia Doohan: National president of the NCP students’ wingOne of the characters at the heart of the Maharashtra political drama has been a politician from Haryana’s Hisar. She is 30-year-old Sonia Doohan. The national president of the NCP students’ wing, Doohan was held along with an aide for allegedly using fake identification documents to check into Hotel Taj Resort and Convention Centre in Dona Paula, Goa, where Shiv Sena MLAs who had rebelled against Uddhav Thackeray were staying. It was Doohan who was at the fore in November 2019 too when the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis had tried to form the government with the NCP’s Ajit Pawar, after the Assembly poll results threw up a split verdict. Doohan was credited with “rescuing” four NCP MLAs from right under the BJP’s nose from a hotel in Gurgaon, Haryana. Sukhbir Siwach and Mayura Janwalkar bring you this report on the “feisty” youngster who made her way in politics despite her humble beginningsUP Deputy Chief Minister Brajesh PathakUttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Brajesh Pathak is known as a leader unafraid of speaking his mind and for whom his approachability is a key strength. The “Brahmin face” of the second Yogi Adityanath government, Pathak questioned Health Secretary Amit Mohan Prasad earlier this week over the transfer of doctors. The 58-year-old first came to the limelight as a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader when he won the Lok Sabha election from Unnao in 2004. Though Pathak remained with the party despite its loss in the 2012 Assembly elections, he jumped ship to the BJP ahead of the state polls a year before the next Assembly polls. Pathak’s rise in the ruling party was equally quick. He was rewarded with a Cabinet berth in the first term of the Adityanath government, serving as the Minister of Law. After the BJP retained power in the elections earlier this year, it pulled off a surprise by replacing its old hand and former Lucknow Mayor Dinesh Sharma with Pathak as a Deputy CM.PT UshaSprint queen P T Usha, along with music maestro Ilaiyaraaja, acclaimed screenwriter V Vijayendra Prasad, and philanthropist and spiritual leader Veerendra Heggade, was nominated to the Rajya Sabha this week. Since her retirement in 2000, P T Usha has been a constant presence at national track and field meets along with her trainees from the Usha School of Athletics based in Kinalur in Kerala’s Kozhikode. Usha dominated the sprints and the 400 metre for over a decade at the Asian level. She now has a new role to play.
BJP national vice-president Dilip Ghosh has dared the police to arrest him and ruling party workers to “lay hands on him”, asserting he need not learn decency and ethics from “murderer and corrupt” Trinamool Congress, after a controversy erupted over his alleged unsavoury comments against West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.The Medinipur MP’s latest remarks came only a few hours after a TMC delegation met Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar over the issue, who promised to look into the matter.Ghosh, the former state BJP chief, claimed he did not make any inappropriate remark against Banerjee and his comments were only in reference to her “political opportunism and inconsistency”.The BJP leader, however, asserted he will continue to speak out against “cut money culture and atrocities committed by TMC on its opponents” even in Bhowanipore assembly constituency, represented by the chief minister.“I dare the West Bengal Police to arrest me. I have not taken any cut money, nor have I killed anyone, burned anyone’s properties or looted them. I haven’t beaten up people for opposing my views either. Still, if the law enforcers want to put me behind the bars, I ask them to send the police,” he told reporters on Thursday night.“I will not learn ethics or decency from murderer TMC which has taken the lives of scores of our party leaders and grassroots level workers since last year’s assembly elections. I won’t learn anything from corrupt people who siphon off government funds and divert aid meant for poor people to their kin,” he said.The BJP leader said he merely referred to Banerjee’s “political opportunism and inconsistency”.“She says one thing in West Bengal and something completely different in another part of the country. I only pointed that out,” Ghosh said.During a conclave organised by a media house, Ghosh had allegedly made derogatory remarks against Banerjee’s family, while referring to her ‘Bangla nijer meyekei chay’ (Bengal wants its daughter) campaign during the West Bengal assembly elections last year and her subsequent visit to Goa, where she claimed to have felt an affinity towards the coastal state.A TMC delegation led by MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar and state minister Bratya Basu met Dhankhar on Thursday and urged him to condemn Ghosh’s remarks and ensure strictest punishment for the BJP leader.“We have requested the governor to condemn Ghosh’s remarks. On various occasions, we have seen him actively calling out comments of others. We hope that on this occasion, too, he will do the same. Steps must be taken to ensure strictest punishment for the BJP leader,” Ghosh Dastidar said.She claimed that the governor promised to look into the matter.Dhankhar, later in the day, tweeted that the delegation was given assurance the matter would be taken up for consideration.“Delegation @AITCofficial sought intervention at remarks made against Hon’ble CM was assured of consideration.Indicated to delegation concerns at worrisome Constitutional transgressions, insensitive stance towards human rights and need for working in tandem for public good,” he tweeted.The ruling party in West Bengal further sought legal action against Ghosh.“We want Dilip Ghosh to be arrested immediately. Such remarks have no place in a civilised society,” TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh said.TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee earlier voiced outrage over Ghosh’s comments and demanded his arrest. Party MPs Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar and Saugata Roy also condemned the remarks.The state BJP leadership, on its part, insisted that it was not in favour of personal attacks, which is the “hallmark of the TMC”, but if anyone was hurt by any comment of Ghosh, that was “unintended”.Asked to comment over the row, BJP state spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya told PTI, “The BJP has never made any personal attack against any individual, this is not the culture of BJP. It is the TMC that had made objectionable comments against our national president, the home minister and prime minister.” “What we understand is that Ghosh gave indications about the inconsistent political stance of the TMC supremo all through her political career, and her opportunistic politics. He did not intend to attack her personally. If the TMC and Banerjee are hurt, however, we can say that it was unintended,” Bhattacharya added.
Taking exception to alleged unsavoury comments by BJP national vice-president Dilip Ghosh against West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at a programme of a media group, Trinamool Congress (TMC) general secretary Abhishek Banerjee has demanded his arrest.During an interaction at the ‘India Today East Conclave’, Ghosh had allegedly made some derogatory remarks about Banerjee’s family. He also made comments against the CM, referring to her “Banglar Meye” (Daughter of Bengal) campaign during the last assembly polls in Bengal and her later visit to Goa where she had claimed her affinity with the coastal state.Expressing shock over the utterances of the former state BJP president, the Diamond Harbour MP on Wednesday tweeted, “Outrageous. PM @narendramodi, it is about time to get this loose tongue arrested! Is this how @BJP4India leaders talk about the only sitting woman Chief Minister of the nation (sic)?”Trinamool MP Kakali Ghosh Dastidar in a video expressed shock that such crass words can be used by a political personality against a woman, who happens to be the only female chief minister in the country.Dastidar said she was wearing a black badge in protest against the “misogynistic” comment by Ghosh and demanding action against him. State BJP leaders could not be contacted for reaction.Also, an eight-member Trinamool delegation on Thursday met Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and demanded that Dilip Ghosh should tender an unconditional apology to CM Mamata Banerjee for his comments.The delegation arrived at Raj Bhavan in the afternoon had a meeting with the Governor for more than an hour. MP Kakli Ghosh Dastidar, who was part of the delegation, said after the meeting, “We approached the Governor about the manner in which BJP MP Dilip Ghosh made vulgar remarks about the Chief Minister’s family. The Governor is the constitutional head of the state, so we appealed to him to take disciplinary action against Dilip Ghosh.”Dilip Ghosh had made insulting remarks against the CM earlier also, he claimed. “His remarks on Goddess Durga were also insulting. We have appealed to the Governor to mete out severe punishment to him,” Dastidar said.Newsletter | Click to get the day’s best explainers in your inboxThe delegation included Education Minister Bratya Basu, Women and Child Social Welfare Minister Shashi Panja, party deputy chief whip Tapash Roy, MP Sajda Ahmed and South Kolkata MP Mala Roy.Trinamool spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said, “Looking at the Governor’s behavior, many consider him the chief patron of the state BJP. But, now he has to prove that he is the Governor of the entire state. I hope he will definitely take some action in this regard.”Later, the Governor tweeted, “Delegation @AITCofficial sought intervention at remarks made against Hon’ble CM was assured of consideration. Indicated to delegation concerns at worrisome Constitutional transgressions, insensitive stance towards human rights and need for working in tandem for public good (sic).”
Facing an FIR several police cases across the country over her remarks on a controversy over a film poster featuring Goddess Kaali, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra was on Wednesday defiant, tweeting: “Jai Ma Kali! The goddess Bengalis worship is fearless & non-appeasing.”While her remarks were endorsed by a large number of the TMC’s young social media volunteers, Moitra may find the support dry up soon. With its vigorous invocation of Bengali sub-nationalism at odds with its plans to expand in other regions, the TMC was quick to officially distance itself from Moitra’s remarks, made at the India Today Conclave East. It also issued a strong censure of the first-time MP.Jai Ma Kali!The goddess Bengalis worship is fearless & non-appeasing.— Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) July 6, 2022“Moitra should realise that as a public representative, the world is not her oyster. Exercising a degree of restraint is also necessary in these fraught times, notwithstanding our personal beliefs,” said a Trinamool MP, on the condition of anonymity.While it was precisely her fiery oratory and articulation that fuelled Moitra’s meteoric rise in the TMC after she joined it in 2010 – with the party looking for faces to represent it in the national capital – her star has been on the decline.As a parliamentarian, Moitra has often made it to headlines with her speeches tearing into the Modi government and the RSS-BJP ideology. In her maiden speech in 2019, she talked about “early signs of fascism”, saying: “The very nature of the overwhelmingness of this mandate (the BJP’s win), of the totality of this mandate, makes it necessary for us to be heard today, for the voice of dissent to be heard today.”In 2021, the TMC rewarded her by making her Goa in-charge, hoping to leverage her strengths in the coastal state. But the TMC’s drubbing in the Assembly polls did not reflect well on Moitra.Before that, she was at the receiving end of public admonishment by TMC chief Mamata Banerjee during an administrative review meeting in Nadia district, under which Moitra’s constituency Krishnanagar falls, over bickering regarding ticket distribution.A TMC insider said, “Over the months, the leadership had received complaints over her autocratic style of functioning. A combination of such complaints from local leaders and her outspokenness in sensitive matters were to be her undoing.”Born in Assam’s Cachar district in 1974, Moitra had a fairly affluent upbringing in a family of tea-planters, and graduated from a Massachusetts college with a degree in Economics and Mathematics. She left a successful career as a banker with JP Morgan’s London and New York operations to pursue, what she calls, a life-long interest in public life.Her first stop was the Congress, where she was almost immediately picked to lead the “aam aadmi ka sipahi (common man’s soldier)” booth-level campaign conceived by Rahul Gandhi. Two years later, she moved to the TMC. She attributed it to the Congress’s weak organisational presence at the grass-roots level.She managed to win first as a TMC MLA from a largely rural Karimpur constituency in 2016 and is now an MP from Krishnanagar.As the controversy over her Kaali remarks spread, trailed by complaints against her, Moitra characteristically shot back on Twitter: “Bring it on BJP! Am a Kali worshipper. I am not afraid of anything. Not your ignoramuses. Not your goons. Not your police. And most certainly not your trolls. Truth doesn’t need back up forces.” Through the day, she liked many tweets that expressed disappointment over the position taken by the TMC on her.However, in these thin-skinned times, perhaps Moitra would do better to heed her own words once. Addressing students at a school in Delhi in July 2019, she said people had warned her about politics. “I was always what, unfortunately, in slang was termed as ‘smart ass’. Everyone said there are sharks out there, they will eat you up, it’s dirty, it’s corrupt, you don’t know anyone, your father’s not an MP, it’s impossible.”
The heady days of winter 2021 must seem to be from an age ago for the Trinamool Congress (TMC). The party’s morale in the North East was high, with a number of high-profile joinings, including that of virtually the entire Meghalaya Congress unit, and a respectable performance in the Tripura urban local body polls. With a vote share of around 20 per cent in the Agartala Municipal Corporation election, the party had left the CPI(M) behind while the Congress was nearly wiped out.The Tripura bypoll results have, however, dealt a setback to the TMC that also faced a bruising defeat in the Goa Assembly polls in February. TMC’s campaign managers concede that the party refused to see the writing on the wall in Tripura. The party failed to win any of the four seats that were at stake and its vote shares were also low. In Agartala, it received 2.1 per cent of the votes while the vote shares were 2.98 per cent in Jubarajnagar, 3.4 per cent in Surma, and 2.96 per cent in Town Bardowali.“By rejoining the Congress, Sudip Roy Barman changed the equation. He is a formidable face in Agartala, which sent him to the Assembly five times between 1998 and 2018. So, we could not repeat our performance here despite putting up a popular face,” said a TMC leader who was involved with the party’s campaign.Historical trends show that vote shares of parties swing wildly in Tripura, the country’s third-smallest state. The Congress’s vote share crashed from 36.5 per cent in the 2013 Assembly polls to 1.79 per cent in 2018, shifting to the BJP that saw its share rise from 1.5 per cent to 43.59 per cent.In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress saw its share rise to 25.34 per cent and it shrank to 2.07 per cent in the urban local body polls. “That is when the party occupied some space. But it could not hold on to that as a local popular face infused fresh life into the Congress,” said the TMC leader.And due to the absence of a local face with a mass appeal in its state unit, the TMC was no match for the Congress that managed to get its support base revived in the urban areas, where the party performed well even during the heyday of the Left Front that governed Tripura from 1998 to 2018.“The party needs experienced people in its ranks, along with fresh blood,” said a senior TMC leader. The Tripura unit head, Subal Bhowmik, formerly with the BJP, has attributed the recent losses to “organisational weaknesses”.“The party still does not have a permanent office building in the state. There is no booth-level presence. The anti-BJP electorate also voted strategically. Why will they vote for a party that does not even have an office?” said the senior functionary on the condition of anonymity.On Tuesday, TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee said the party would not abandon its plans to grow in the state and would continue to fight.Meanwhile, TMC leaders in the state also claimed that the CPI(M) helped the Congress “as part of a tacit deal”. A party functionary said, “Even in 2018, CPI(M) candidate polled over 17,000 votes in the Agartala constituency. This time, it came down to a little over 6,000. In the Town Bardowali seat, which is also in the capital city, the Left Front candidate had received over 13,000 votes in 2018, while he got barely 3,000 votes.”Going ahead, the party, which maintains that Barman’s win does not signal a revival of the Congress, plans to focus on building a “grassroots narrative”. Said a local leader, “The launch of the party’s office space in Agartala will be a good beginning.”Meanwhile, the TMC will launch its Meghalaya office today in the presence of Abhishek Banerjee.
After the Tripura bypolls results were announced Sunday, while the CPI(M) accused the ruling BJP of misusing its powers, the TMC reviewed what held it back.The state unit of the CPI(M), reacting to the Tripura bypoll results, said the results were engineered with coercion, money and muscle power and misuse of administration.“Judging from the condition going on since the last 51 months in Tripura, the by-election results in four assembly segments aren’t as per expectation. The BJP misused administration and used money, muscle power etc. Voters couldn’t cast a mandate in many areas due to threats, intimidation, and violence perpetrated by the BJP. Genuine voters were obstructed from casting their votes,” said a statement issued by CPI(M) office secretary Haripada Das.The statement also said the party believes “democratic people” would take “lessons” from incidents that transpired in the bypolls and build extensive unity for the future.Meanwhile, TMC Tripura unit president Subal Bhowmik said they have accepted the mandate but said his party’s poor performance in bypolls does not reflect the general mindset of the electorate.Speaking to reporters, he claimed voters wanted to “consolidate” opposition votes to make sure the BJP didn’t get an advantage due to a fractured opposition mandate. Bhowmik claimed electors made the “right decision” by taking this call but added that such a move happened due to by-polls, where the government wouldn’t be changed anyway.“The results match voter character of Tripura. In 2018, Congress went down to 1.5 per cent, rose to 27 per cent in 2019 and reduced again to less than 1 per cent in civic polls. We believe this poll dynamics will change again next year and it will go in favour of TMC,” said Bhowmik.However, the Trinamool Congress leader admitted his party had “organisational weaknesses” and had some “issues of continuity” in an oblique reference to the TMC’s focus on Goa after the party’s moderate results in civic body polls last year.“We had some organisational weaknesses, we had some problems of continuity. We could not build a vote bank though we have the support of the people. When they saw massive violence, they thought they would give a mandate in favour of defeating the BJP. but it wouldn’t stay the same in 2023. Future of the TMC is bright,” claimed Bhowmik.The ruling BJP won three assembly seats and the Congress bagged one in the high-stakes bypolls in Tripura. Chief Minister Manik Saha won the bypoll to the crucial Town Bardowali seat against Ashish Kumar Saha of the Congress. Congress leader Sudip Roy Barman defeated his nearest rival Ashok Sinha of the BJP in Agartala.
The de facto number two in the Trinamool Congress (TMC), Abhishek Banerjee is viewed as the heir apparent of his aunt and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Though his rise has caused consternation among certain senior leaders of the party, the Diamond Harbour MP is trying to move beyond his recent troubles and consolidate his position and image both within the party and in the public.Earlier this year, as Covid-19 cases increased, Abhishek’s constituency bucked the trend as the MP’s proactive measures — control rooms in every block, panchayat and municipal ward in South 24 Parganas, and the “Doctors on Wheels” service in five blocks — helped bring down the positivity rate from 20 per cent to one per cent in two weeks. Labelled the Diamond Harbour model of Covid management, the episode enhanced his image in the eyes of people. On the occasion of the Bengali New Year in April, the MP launched Diamond Harbour FC, a football club named after his constituency. At the event, reaching out to everyone across party lines, he said, “This is football. So even if you are from the TMC, the BJP, the Congress or the CPI(M), you are welcome here. If you are in politics, even if you are not, you are welcome here. This is football, which has no place for religion or caste.”On Saturday, as he completed eight years as a parliamentarian, Abhishek launched an “Ek Daake Abhishek” helpline for the people of his constituency. The helpline is modelled on his aunt’s “Didi ke Bolo” initiative. The MP also released a report card titled “Nishobdo Biplab (Silent Revolution)” in which he enlisted the work done in the area during his time in Parliament.But it has not been all smooth sailing for Abhishek. While he and his wife are under investigation in connection with a case of money laundering arising out of a coal scam, some in the TMC old guard have been left unenthused by his rise. This year itself, the MP took several positions that seemed to go against the official party narrative. Ahead of the civic polls, Abhishek suggested that relatives of leaders with a tainted background should not get tickets, but Mamata Banerjee ignored this demand. His demand for a ban on political and religious gatherings during a rise in Covid cases was also unheeded as the state government went ahead with the Gangasagar Mela.The rift between Abhishek and the old guard of the party widened over the candidates’ list for 108 civic bodies. The tussle came to the fore after two candidate lists were released for the polls. While one was published by the party’s senior leaders Partha Chatterjee, Firhad Hakim, Aroop Biswas, and Subrata Bakshi, another popped up on the party’s official website and was said to have been the one formulated by Prashant Kishor’s company I-PAC. The involvement of I-PAC in the TMC after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, which saw the BJP make huge gains in Bengal, largely rested on Abhishek’s support.Earlier this year, the Diamond Harbour MP’s actions and statements drew criticism from senior TMC leader and MP Kalyan Banerjee who called Abhishek’s statements a “challenge to the state government” and declared that he did not consider the 34-year-old his leader. Questioning the work Abhishek did in Diamond Harbour during the Covid surge, he said, “What model? There is only one model, which Mamata Banerjee has come up with … Abhishek is basically lending an advantage to the BJP. If Abhishek Banerjee can win Tripura and Goa, then I will accept him as a leader.”As the internal discord increasingly spilled out into the open, Mamata Banerjee, in an effort to keep the old guard happy, dissolved all national-level portfolios in the party, including Abhishek’s portfolio of national general secretary that he had been elevated to following the Assembly election victory in 2021. The TMC chief then reshuffled party positions, appointing senior leaders such as Yashwant Sinha and Amit Mitra to the national working committee and making Sukhendu Sekhar Roy the national spokesperson. At the same time, she reinstated Abhishek as the TMC’s national general secretary and expressed her faith in him as the leader of the party’s next generation.Abhishek has also had to contend with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and ED scanner on him and his wife Rujira in a coal scam case. “The CBI and ED are constantly targeting me but I have not lowered my head before them,” the MP said last month. “I am not afraid of any agency or investigation. The ED tried to harass me by calling me to Delhi twice. I have never run away from any agency. I told them if they want to interrogate me, they should come to Bengal. I am a son of this soil. I am ready to answer all questions.”Some senior leaders said Abhishek was trying to follow in his aunt’s footsteps and develop an image of him being larger than the party itself in order to push his aunt to give him more responsibilities.Speaking about Abhishek, a senior TMC leader said, “He is already number two in the party. But, he has to prove himself as a good administrator. That is why he is developing the Diamond Harbour constituency as a model constituency.”The MP still enjoys the support of some of the TMC old guard. “Abhishek Banerjee is probably the most popular youth icon in India,” claimed veteran party leader and MLA Madan Mitra.Taking a dig at the TMC MP over the report card he unveiled on Saturday, BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said, “Successors in dynasties always try to differentiate themselves from others. I do not know what he did in his ‘silent revolution’ but I know all teacher vacancies in West Bengal were silently sold.”
“What is UPA? There is no UPA”: Mamata Banerjee, December 1, 2021.The three-time chief minister’s assertion was projected as a sign of her determination to open a new chapter in Opposition politics, with her party, the Trinamool Congress, as the fulcrum, replacing a listless Congress.On Wednesday, ahead of the joint meeting convened by her on the Presidential poll, as Banerjee warmly received Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge, Jairam Ramesh and Randeep Surjewala at the entrance of the meeting venue, the moment framed the distance travelled by the TMC in the last seven months.Humbled by a poor show in the Goa assembly polls, desertion of inductees like Haryana leader Ashok Tanwar within days of joining, and trouble in its home turf West Bengal on many fronts, ranging from political violence and an alleged scam in teacher recruitment, the TMC appears to have reworked its strategy.The joint meeting, which was attended by 17 Opposition parties despite noises made by the Congress, Left parties and the DMK over Banerjee’s “unilateral initiative”, was replete with signs that the TMC has realised its limitations, and the need to adopt a more accommodating approach — with a little nudge from Sharad Pawar.In fact, conscious attempts were made to avoid giving an impression that it was a ‘Mamata show’. The NCP supremo, who played a major role in getting the TMC to dial down its aggression, which was threatening to erase even the fuzzy outlines of unity in the Opposition camp, presided over the meeting.Apart from the Congress, Pawar, who is the force binding together the unlikely Sena-NCP-Congress coalition in Maharashtra, also managed to bring the Left parties, which continues to have bitter equations with the TMC, on board for her proposal to “sit together” and pick “the true custodian of our Constitution”.In her speech at the meeting, Banerjee even attacked the BJP government over the ED grilling of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, likening it with the agency’s action against her own nephew and TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee. That’s a far cry from last winter, when she would flare up even at the slightest mention of the Grand Old Party.Also, instead of sulking over TMC’s attempt to take the pole position, by stepping back a little, the Congress has also offered Banerjee the required space to leverage her strengths by reaching out to parties like the TRS, YSRCP, BJD, BSP and SP, which would be more receptive to ideas floated by her than the Sonia Gandhi-led party.The Shiv Sena, which deputed two leaders to Wednesday’s meeting, also appears to be enthused with the new playbook scripted by Banerjee and Pawar. The party had in December criticised the TMC, saying no Opposition front is possible without the Congress.The meeting had its share of hitches though. While political activist Sudheendra Kulkarni read out a one-line resolution adopted at the meeting after it ended, the TMC is learnt to have prepared a three-page draft. But it was whittled down after many participants pointed out that the draft should have been circulated well in advance.With the next meeting of the Opposition camp scheduled for next week, all eyes are on Pawar, who will take the lead in hosting it after having turned down the unanimous request by leaders to be the face against the NDA’s candidate.As things stand, the NDA already has over 48 per cent of the vote share in the electoral college for choosing the new President, which seems to be the primary reason behind the reluctance of the Maratha strongman, who tweeted last night saying, “I am happy to continue my service for the well-being of the common man”.Also, among NC’s Farooq Abdullah and former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the two alternative names floated at the meeting, the latter appears to have more acceptance, even among those who stayed away for tactical reasons.Leader of an Opposition party, which skipped the meeting despite being invited, said his party was likely to push for the candidature of Gopal Krishna Gandhi.“He may have been critical of the government, but Gopal Krishna Gandhi is the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. The PM holds the Mahatma in high regard. There is no better time to field him than the 75th year of India’s Independence,” the leader said.
Back in 2017, as 17 Opposition parties huddled at a luncheon hosted by Sonia Gandhi to pick a Presidential nominee on a hot summer day, AAP was among the notable omissions from the list of invitees.The Congress kept the AAP away from the joint Opposition table at a time the Arvind Kejriwal-led party was reeling under a string of electoral reverses and police cases against its MLAs in Delhi.Cut to June 15, 2022: the AAP is the only Opposition party, apart from the Congress, that’s governing two states, with a collective strength of 156 MLAs and 10 Rajya Sabha MPs.Yet, the party was missing from Wednesday’s joint strategy meeting convened by West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee to pick a consensus Opposition candidate for the upcoming Presidential polls.This time, however, staying away was a conscious choice made by the AAP, which is making an aggressive push to grow its footprint in states such as Gujarat and Haryana, among others.There are three major reasons behind AAP’s no-show”1. Presence of the CongressThe AAP, which has over the last one decade relegated the Congress to the margins of Delhi politics and Punjab, is not comfortable sharing a common platform with the Sonia Gandhi-led party. AAP traces its genesis to the 2011 India Against Corruption (IAC) movement, which rocked the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by the Congress. The Congress could never recover from the blow dealt by the IAC, a section of which floated the AAP. In 2014, Kejriwal resigned as CM, bringing down the short-lived AAP government formed with the outside support of the Congress, which, along with the BJP, blocked the introduction of a Jan Lokpal Bill in the Delhi Assembly citing constitutional infirmities. The ties between the two parties soured further after their alliance talks ahead of the 2019 general elections broke down, triggering a bitter public spat between Kejriwal and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.2. Conscious of its imageThe AAP feels its anti-corruption, modern image, with a major focus on addressing governance deficit, does not gel well with the conventional approach of other parties, which “are among those against which the IAC rallied the masses” in the name of Jan Lokpal Bill. The party did show up in such joint forums in the past, though. In 2018, Kejriwal was among the Opposition leaders who attended the swearing-in ceremony of H D Kumaraswamy in Karnataka. He was also present at another joint Opposition rally organised by the TMC in Kolkata in 2019. In February 2019, the AAP also hosted a ‘Save Democracy’ rally in Jantar Mantar, where Kejriwal even shared dais with Congress’s Anand Sharma, among others. But the drubbing in the 2019 general elections has forced a rethink, leading to a change in strategy. While Kejriwal continues to meet Banerjee, and leaders like TRS’s K Chandrashekar Rao and DMK’s M K Stalin, AAP leaders say that in the lead-up to the 2024 polls, the party will largely desist from participating in joint forums like it did in the past.3. A tussle for spaceThe fact that Wednesday’s joint strategy meeting was convened by the TMC was also a factor behind the AAP’s absence. The ties between the two parties have taken a hit in the past one year, with the TMC making a surprise foray into Goa ahead of the Assembly polls in the coastal state, where the AAP had been trying to make inroads since 2015. The relations between Kejriwal and Banerjee also came under strain with both their parties vying to fill the Opposition space vacated by a politically feeble Congress. Assam is another frontier where the two parties are set to cross swords in the coming weeks and months. The AAP’s Bengal unit has also been regularly attacking the TMC government.
Nine days ahead of the by-election in four assembly segments of Tripura, Trinamool Congress (TMC) general secretary Abhishek Banerjee Tuesday joined the first major road show and poll rally in Agartala and urged the voters to cast mandate in favour of his party candidates, as supporting CPIM or Congress would mean “wasting” the vote.The much-hyped ‘padyatra’ organised at Agartala and Town Bardowali constituencies, however, saw moderate turnout, which the TMC leaders claimed was because many were “scared to attend the rally” out of fear of political violence.Addressing a rally at Govind Ballabh Pant (GBP) Hospital, Chowmuhani, in the afternoon, Banerjee said the BJP’s decision to replace Biplab Kumar Deb as Chief Minister with Dr Manik Saha nine months ahead of the 2023 general assembly elections proves the government under BJP watch has “flopped”.He said former Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, under the Left Front regime, had destroyed Tripura’s potential of development, while the BJP, on the other hand, added to the damage amidst high hopes of people who voted for a change.“Manik Saha has been made scapegoat. BJP’s claim that “double-engine government is the only solution” is more like an old wine in new bottle,” Banerjee said.Accusing the saffron party of perpetrating political violence on opposition party activists, especially Trinamool Congress, the TMC leader said “duare goonda” (goons at doorstep) had stopped people from exercising their franchise. in the civic body polls held last year. He appealed to the voters to brave threats and intimidation to cast mandate in favour of the TMC in the June 23 by-elections for forming “duare sarkar” (government at doorstep).Citing CMIE data, Banerjee said Tripura has been hit by the highest number of unemployment crisis in the country while the National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB) data showed the state, under the BJP rule, has earned the dubious distinction of having the highest number of political violence cases in north-east India as well.He asked the voters to consolidate opposition votes and said, “Don’t waste your vote by favouring the CPIM or the Congress. They have tried and it has become clear now that the TMC is the only party that can defeat the BJP. Voting for CPIM and Congress means wasting the vote”Taking a dig at the BJP, Banerjee said the “double-engine government” is actually “double chor government”.“The double-engine govt is ‘do numbari’ (fake). This is a double-chor sarkar. They want to loot Tripura and Delhi and since they are in power at both, neither the state police nor CBI would bother them, Banerjee said.He accused the central government of politically misusing CBI, Enforcement Directorate (ED) to harass TMC leaders.He asked them to cast votes without fear or favour.TMC working to further BJP interests: CongReacting to his comments, Tripura Congress coordination committee convener Gopal Chandra Roy said that the TMC is working to divide votes and make way for the BJP. He claimed the poll experience from Goa indicates that the TMC is working to further BJP interests.TMC will find hard to save security deposit: CPIMCPIM state secretary Jitendra Chaudhury said the TMC will have to fight hard to even save its security deposit in four seats.“They are spending lakhs of money. They produced nothing in civic polls. Let’s see if they can save their security deposit this time,” he said.A thief speaking about theft: BJPBJP spokesperson Nabendu Bhattacharya said it is ridiculous that a thief is speaking about theft, in an oblique reference to the charges levelled against Banerjee of being involved in coal scam.He also said TMC is fighting for third or fourth position in the by-polls and claimed the Bengal-based party would find it secured “handful of votes” after the by-election results.
Canacona: Speaker of Goa legislative assembly and Canacona MLA Ramesh Tawadkar organised a programme ‘Canacona Vision 2030’ with an aim to chalk out a vision document for the taluka. Tawadkar said that a roadmap/vision document is required to be prepared so that all-round development of the taluka can be achieved by 2030. At the meeting, 17 committees were formed, each comprising 8-10 members that include teachers, engineers, accountants, doctors, lawyers, journalists, bankers, and agriculturists. While the organisers of the event claimed that 200 invites were sent out, barring a few councillors from Canacona municipality, many of the elected representatives from the seven panchayats — Loliem-Polem, Poinguinim, Cotigao, Gaondongrim, Shristhal, Agonda and Khola — chose to skip the event. While Congress’ Janardhan Bhandari attended the meeting, none of the other candidates who contested the state elections in February were present at the session held recently at Shri Mallikarjun College of Arts and Commerce, Delem, Canacona. Former Canacona MLAs Isidore Fernandes and Vijay Pai Khot, AAP’s Anoop Kurtarkar, Revolutionary Goans’ Prashant Pagi, and TMC’s Mahadev Desai didn’t attend the meeting.
MARGAO: Goa Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Saturday took a strong stand against the destruction of mangrove forests and slammed the BJP government for its inaction in the matter. Pointing to the destruction of more than 2,000 mangrove trees along the Merces-Bambolim highway, state TMC co- ordinator Rajendra Kakodkar demanded a joint inquiry by the environment-forest department, science and technology, PWD, WRD, and fisheries department duly supervised by the Goa State Pollution Control Board. While addressing reporters along with Dasharath Mandrekar, Tanoj Adwalpalkar, Vincent Fernandes and Kanta Gaude, Kakodkar said, "The departments concerned must ensure that the bundhs are not converted into roads, the pipelines should be designed so as to have full flow on either side of the Merces-Bambolim highway, and a probe into the use of chemicals to kill the mangroves should be initiated." Criticising the government's inaction, Mandrekar went on to accuse it of killing trees despite its tall claims of protecting the environment. He charged the government with turning a blind eye to the entire patch of dead mangrove trees on the national highway. Adwalpalkar said that chemicals were used to clear mangroves and urged the forest department to allow locals to plant mangroves in the area to stop further environmental degradation.
Vlogger Roddur Roy, who was arrested by the Kolkata Police in Goa on Tuesday for allegedly hurling abuses at West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and he nephew and TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee, was on Thursday produced in Bankshall court which remanded him in five days of police custody.Roddur, whose real name is Anirban, was brought to Kolkata from Goa on Wednesday night on a transit remand and was lodged at the Lalbazar prison.“He was sent in police custody till June 14,” said an official. While leaving the courtroom, Roy said he was not a “criminal”.A police vehicle with Roy entered the Bankshall court premises around 2.30 pm amid members of several organisations expressing their solidarity with Roy outside the premises. Upon reaching the court, Roy responded to the crowd by waving his hand.A YouTuber, Roy was arrested for allegedly making derogatory remarks against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her nephew and TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee.Roy purportedly made the remarks during a Facebook Live session on the controversy surrounding Bengali singer Rupankar Bagchi’s comments on KK, who died hours after a live concert in Kolkata on May 31. A section of people, however, strongly condemned his arrest on social media.
The Kolkata police Tuesday arrested YouTuber Roddur Roy in Goa for making ‘derogatory’ remarks against West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.“Roddur Roy has been arrested in Goa and will be brought to Kolkata on transit remand,” a senior Kolkata police official told The Indian Express. Roy had reportedly made the remarks during a Facebook live programme.A case was filed against Roy by Trinamool spokesperson Riju Dutta at the Chitpur police station, the police said. Roy had conducted a Facebook live mocking Banerjee’s literary award. He is known for his controversial social media posts.Complaints had filed against Roy at different police stations in Kolkata. Dutta in his complaint had said that Roy was a repeat offender and had “maligned the state of West Bengal” and “perennially uses derogatory remarks against our police force.” The vlogger allegedly hurled abuses at Banerjee, Trinamool Congress MPs and also the Kolkata Police.
Panaji: Taking on the BJP government, Goa Trinamool Congress (TMC) said that the state government’s assurance about restoring mangroves is just another hollow promise. TMC’s co-ordinator Rajendra Kakodkar took potshots at TCP minister Vishwajit Rane, calling his act of trudging through marshy land to plant a mangrove a “stunt” for the cameras. A day after writing to governor P S Sreedharan Pillai regarding Goa’s mangroves, TMC’s Goa in-charge Kirti Azad and Kakodkar lashed out at the Pramod Sawant-led government for its failure in protecting Goa’s environment.
PANAJI: Blaming the state government for neglecting mangroves and Goa's ecology and environment, TMC Goa on Sunday wrote to governor P S Sreedharan Pillai asking for restoration of forests and mangroves. TMC said that it is crucial that efforts to protect the environment are accelerated so that global warming and climate change can be slowed down. "Being on the cusp of multiple tipping points, it becomes crucial that we accelerate efforts to safeguard the environment," TMC Goa said in the letter. TMC has submitted pictures of destroyed mangroves to back their allegations that there is an increase in the number of cases of cutting and clearing of mangroves along the coastal belt of Goa. TMC's state incharge Kirti Azad said that fragile mangrove ecosystems are illegally converted into resorts and real estate projects. Pictures of damaged mangroves at Morombi o Grande and Morombi o Pequeno were attached. The party said that the BJP-led government's insistence on major projects devastated Goa's ecology.
Panaji: Blaming the state government for neglecting mangroves and Goa’s ecology and environment, TMC Goa on Sunday wrote to governor P S Sreedharan Pillai asking for restoration of forests and mangroves. TMC said that it is crucial that efforts to protect the environment are accelerated so that global warming and climate change can be slowed down. “We now request your excellency to prevail over the current disposition to protect all remaining mangroves, enhance recovery, and restore lost forests. Being on the cusp of multiple tipping points, it becomes crucial that we accelerate efforts to safeguard the environment,” TMC Goa said in the letter. TMC has submitted pictures of destroyed mangroves to back their allegations that there is an increase in the number of cases of cutting and clearing of mangroves along the coastal belt of Goa. TMC’s state incharge Kirti Azad said that fragile mangrove ecosystems are illegally converted into resorts and real estate projects. Pictures of damaged mangroves at Morombi o Grande and Morombi o Pequeno were attached with the letter. The party said that the BJP-led government’s insistence on major projects devastated Goa’s ecology. Azad said that minister for forests Vishwajit Rane has “woken up too late” to hide political apathy and police inaction towards the destruction of mangrove forests.“After successfully overlooking the damage caused to the mangroves, Rane has yet again peddled hollow promises of taking action. It has been more than 16 days since intervention was promised but to our utter disappointment, the government has stayed silent on the matter,” said TMC’s former vice president and state co-ordinator Rajendra Kakodkar. Core committee members Samil Volvaiker and Jagdish Bhobe along with several others protested against the cutting of mangroves in the coastal state and highlighted the BJP led government’s apathy towards protecting the environment.
Panaji: TMC formed an eight-member core committee for Goa along with a 50-member ad hoc committee of coordinators on Thursday who have been asked to strengthen and rebuild the party by September 1. The party has also asked its workers to prepare for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, an announcement that could complicate Congress’ efforts to retain the South Goa Lok Sabha seat. Former TMC state vice president Rajendra Kakodkar is the coordinator of the ad hoc core committee, which also includes the party’s Rajya Sabha MP Luizinho Faleiro, Antonio Clovis D’Costa, Dr Jorson Fernandes, Jagdish Bhobe, Samil Volvoikar and Mariano Rodrigues. “The forthcoming Lok Sabha and vidhan sabha elections are our current targets and we will bounce back in a strong and resilient manner,” said party’s Goa incharge, Kirti Azad. “Our leadership will take up local issues and bring to fore the problems of the people of Goa and pressurise the current government to deliver solutions.” Azad made the announcement at a press conference where he was accompanied by TMC national vice-president Faleiro and Kakodkar at the party office in Panaji. The cricketer-turned-politician said that the two committees have been asked to increase the membership and form new district and block committees over the next 100 days, after which a new state-level executive committee will be formed. Interestingly, former Benaulim MLA Churchill Alemao and his daughter Valanka, who contested the assembly elections on TMC tickets, do not find mention in the two ad-hoc committees. When asked about Alemao’s role in the party, Azad said that the party has not been able to contact Alemao.
Panaji: Minister for archives and archaeology Subhash Phal Dessai on Wednesday said his department would visit and inspect all historical temples in Goa and also consult with experts and historians to explore the feasibility of restoring those that were razed by the Portuguese. The minister, however, said that the Rs 20 crore allocated by the state government is meant for restoration of destroyed temples where no religious services are on. Phal Dessai’s remarks come a day after his cabinet colleague, power ministe Ramkrishna ‘Sudin’ Dhavalikar, claimed ‘shivlings’ may be buried under religious sites in Goa. “We will consult experts in the field and historians so that we understand the context. I will also be visiting some sites and if Dhavalikar also knows about such sites, he can inform the department so that we can take an appropriate decision,” said Phal Dessai. Meanwhile, TMC functionary Trajano D’Mello demanded that chief minister Pramod Sawant should clarify the state government’s stand on the issue and put an end to current attempts to create unrest. “The CM should endorse his minister Phal Dessai's decision and make a statement that will allay fears of certain sections of society,” he said. D’Mello further said Dhavalikar’s claims about ‘shivlings’ being buried under religious sites is an attempt to add fuel to the fire and divert the people’s attention. Amid the ongoing Gyanvapi mosque tensions in Uttar Pradesh, Dhavalikar had said on Tuesday that a survey needs to be conducted in Goa to examine whether ‘shivlings’ existed in temples razed by the Portuguese. He also said that temples that were destroyed need to be rebuilt. D’Mello said that Dhavalikar appeared to be contradicting his own statements made in December before the assembly elections. In December, the MGP MLA had said that the Portuguese themselves had rebuilt the destroyed temples during their rule.
Margao: Trinamool Congress Goa desk incharge Kirti Azad said on Tuesday that the party would form the government in Goa in the next five years following the next state assembly elections. Responding to queries posed by reporters over its dismal performance in the last state assembly elections, Azad exuded confidence of the party gaining strength in the state. “We are going to do it. Everything will be in place. Rome was not built in a day,” he said. Pointing out that the TMC polled 8.7% votes in the last elections, Azad said, that the party’s performance was “800 times better” than that of Congress and BJP in their first few elections in Goa. “If you compare it to what BJP did in the first three elections and what Congress did in the first four elections, you will find that we have done 800 times better than them. They couldn’t even get 1% vote share,” he said. Azad was appointed as its Goa desk incharge of the party after its state president Kiran Kandolkar as well as senior functionaries of the party resigned from their posts soon after the state assembly elections. When asked to comment on the exodus of party workers, Azad said, “Good riddance. I wish them all the best for what they have done. At least we know who stands with us. Those who are going to be with us are not opportunists.” The cricketer-turned politician, however, chose not to respond to questions over whether the TMC would back candidates in the upcoming panchayat polls.
Panaji: Chief minister Pramod Sawant’s decision to approach Union home minister Amit Shah has proven the Goa government’s inability to control sex trafficking and prostitution in the state, TMC said here on Thursday. TMC’s Goa unit said that Sawant has abdicated his responsibility and has failed to protect the people of Goa. “The failure of the BJP government in Goa is yet again brought to the fore Sawant’s inability to address the issue of increasing sex trafficking in Goa,” TMC’s Goa state in-charge Kirti Azad said. Sawant held a meeting with NGO Anyay Rahit Zindagi (ARZ) regarding sex trafficking during which he said that he will take up the issue with Shah during his next visit to New Delhi. Azad and former TMC vice-president Rajendra Kakodkar said that Sawant is passing the buck to the Centre instead of taking decisive steps to prevent prostitution in Goa. “Is it right for Sawant to pass the buck to the Union home minister for what is happening in the state? One wonders as to how Amit Shah sitting in Delhi is supposed to combat the issue of sex trafficking that is plaguing Goa,” Kakodkar said. “Goa TMC seeks accountability from the chief minister for the worsening condition of law and order in the state. It’s high time the chief minister takes stock of the situation,” Azad said.
Panaji: TMC will announce an ad hoc state committee on Wednesday and is likely to form a core committee to take decisions for the party as it goes through a restructuring process. TMC’s Goa state in-charge Kirti Azad will announce the ad hoc committee, which insiders say, may have as many as 50-80 members. Azad is expected to leave Goa on Wednesday or Thursday and return after a fortnight. TMC MP Derek O’Brien has already left the state. The ad hoc state committee’s main task is to form the executive committee and identify a new state president by August end. The committee will also have to enrol newer members and appoint block presidents for each of the 40 constituencies. “The ad hoc committee will see Rajendra Kakodkar and Dr Jorson Fernandes playing a key role. Clovis Costa and Seoloa Vas are also expected to feature prominently in it,” a TMC insider said. When the TMC formed its state executive committee in January, it had announced a 69-member committee. However, after the assembly election debacle, the party has seen several exits and has been unable to attract more than 25-35 active members for review meetings. Meanwhile, TMC has criticised the state government for the delay in disbursing funds under the Griha Aadhaar and Laadli Laxmi schemes. “When the right is created for needy women to get Rs 1,500 per month under ‘Griha Aadhar’ and Rs 1 lakh under ‘Laadli Laxmi’, who are Pramod Sawant as chief minister and Vishwajeet Rane as women and child welfare minister to delay their rights? Around 19,471 Laadli Laxmi beneficiaries and 12,658 Griha Aadhar applications are pending for two years,” Azad said.