Debating India


Trinamool Congress heading for a split?

Monday 25 April 2005, by DAM*Marcus

The party is divided on the issue of ties with the Congress for the municipal elections in Kolkata.

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Mamata Banerjee

FISSURES WITHIN the leadership of West Bengal’s Trinamool Congress are widening, threatening a split in what is the principal Opposition party in the State. Matters have reached a head between the rival factions, headed by party chairperson Mamata Banerjee and Kolkata Mayor Subrata Mukherjee, over the issue of an alliance with the Congress for the Municipal Corporation elections.

The Left Front camp, in sharp contrast, is a picture of order. It has already released its list of candidates for 138 of the 141 wards. There is an unusually large number of women in its list of nominees, 57 in all (more than the number of wards reserved for women); the average age of its candidates is also lower than in the past.

The differences within the Trinamool have been so sharp that Ms. Banerjee recently suspended two of Mr. Mukherjee’s close associates, both MLAs, from the party even as she stopped short of doing the same to the Mayor. Her announcement that the party will have no truck with the Congress in the civic polls because of its proximity to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) at the Centre has been ridiculed by the faction supporting Mr. Mukherjee.

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Subrata Mukherjee

Never before has the rift within the Trinamool’s leadership been so deep. Mr. Mukherjee’s opponents are accusing him of abetting the CPI(M)’s alleged game-plan of splitting of the party. Ms. Banerjee has made it clear that her party will be projecting a new face for Mayor.

Mr. Mukherjee, on the other hand, has taken umbrage at not being invited to a recent meeting of the Trinamool’s working committee of which he is a senior member. He is determined to pursue talks with senior Congress leaders on seat adjustments. There is also talk of his floating a separate forum. This could see the two Trinamool factions in competition in at least some of the wards.

Over the past few weeks, ever since the intra-party differences came out in the open, at least seven Trinamool councillors have left the party to join the Congress whose leadership has been asserting that the party’s doors are open to more. The poor showing of the Trinamool in last year’s Lok Sabha elections when it won one seat, it is being pointed out, is an indication that the party might be on the way to losing its position as the main non-Left party in West Bengal.

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