TMC ver­sus TMYC

Her nephew’s rise has sparked a turf war in Ma­mata Ban­er­jee’s TMC

India Today - - STATES - By Romita Datta

Ab­hishek Ban­er­jee’s grow­ing clout in the Tri­namool Con­gress (TMC) is wors­en­ing the fes­ter­ing tug-of-war be­tween the party’s ‘old guard’, which is firmly loyal to his aunt and Chief Min­is­ter Ma­mata Ban­er­jee, and the youth bri­gade that un­flinch­ingly backs him.

One of the first ca­su­al­ties of Ab­hishek’s me­te­oric rise since the TMC’s phe­nom­e­nal vic­tory in the 2016 assem­bly elec­tion was Mukul Roy, the party’s sec­ond-in-com­mand, who quit in Novem­ber 2017 cit­ing dy­nas­tic pol­i­tics in the party. Roy’s exit boosted Ab­hishek’s stature, giv­ing him a big say in choos­ing elec­toral can­di­dates and ap­point­ments to party posts.

As pres­i­dent of the Tri­namool Youth Con­gress (TMYC), Ab­hishek has placed his loy­al­ists in im­por­tant po­si­tions at the dis­trict level. It has led to scores of vi­o­lent clashes be­tween Ma­mata’s fol­low­ers and TMYC work­ers. Now, with Ab­hishek es­tab­lish­ing him­self as the TMC’s new num­ber two, the ‘old guard’ is un­der­stand­ably de­mor­alised. “The in­fight­ing be­tween the par­ent party and the youth or­gan­i­sa­tion is widely known, but why is Ma­mata Ban­er­jee not tak­ing ac­tion?” asks a TMC leader from Din­hata, re­quest­ing anonymity.

The dis­tricts worst hit by the in­ter­nal feud are South 24 Par­ganas, North 24 Par­ganas, Cooch Be­har, Alipur­d­uar, Hooghly and Bard­haman. The clashes are in­vari­ably over con­trol of re­sources—funds al­lo­cated for wel­fare schemes and ex­tor­tions from brick kiln, real es­tate and fish pond own­ers. South 24 Par­ganas alone wit­nessed 20 mur­ders in the past one year. A few weeks ago, three peo­ple died in a shootout in Joy­na­gar. “It was a fall­out of the feud be­tween Biswanath Das (TMYC) and Gour Sarkar (TMC). Even the po­lice know about it,” says Tarun Naskar, a So­cial­ist Unity Cen­tre of In­dia leader and for­mer Joy­na­gar MLA. Cooch Be­har in north Ben­gal, too, has wit­nessed fa­tal clashes be­tween the fac­tions.

The es­ca­lat­ing war has forced Ma­mata to is­sue re­peated warn­ings. “The TMYC should keep in mind that the TMC is the par­ent party and it is one of its arms,” she said at a north Ben­gal rally in 2016. An­other re­minder came dur­ing a po­lit­i­cal event on June 21 last year in Kolkata. Then, at a meet­ing in South 24 Par­ganas on De­cem­ber 26, Ma­mata de­scribed the deaths of party work­ers as “pre­planned mur­ders”.

Ac­cord­ing to a TMC leader from South 24 Par­ganas, “Seven MLAs from Di­a­mond Har­bour have vir­tu­ally be­come in­ef­fec­tive. Other peo­ple are mind­ing the show.” A min­is­ter from the same dis­trict claimed TMC leg­is­la­tors have be­come pow­er­less and the chief min­is­ter, too, is los­ing con­trol over the party’s youth mem­bers. Ac­cord­ing to him, the TMYC called the shots in last year’s pan­chayat polls, from se­lec­tion of can­di­dates to ap­point­ing prad­hans and gram sab­ha­p­atis. Some se­nior TMC lead­ers fear Ab­hishek’s writ may pre­vail in the se­lec­tion of Lok Sabha can­di­dates as well.

For the record, though, Ab­hishek show­ers re­spect on the ‘old guard’. “I am a foot soldier and my goal is to en­sure the ‘old guard’ con­tin­ues to guide us in our en­deav­ours,” he told a na­tional daily on Jan­uary 5.

TMC spokesper­son Partha Chat­ter­jee re­futed talks of a split in the party, say­ing: “There’s only one party, one flag and one leader, un­like the BJP, which has 10 heads like Ra­vana.” But “shad­ow­box­ing” is how the min­is­ter from South 24 Par­ganas de­scribes the sit­u­a­tion: “Ma­mata is com­ing down heav­ily on the Yuva bri­gade but do­ing noth­ing to pun­ish them while Ab­hishek talks of re­spect­ing the veter­ans with­out rein­ing in his peo­ple.”

SUBIR HALDER

BIG STRIDE Ab­hishek Ban­er­jee passes by Chief Min­is­ter Ma­mata Ban­er­jee at a pub­lic func­tion

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