Days After Abhishek Banerjee’s Visit To State, Deep Cracks Emerge In Trinamool 's Meghalaya Unit

Days After Abhishek Banerjee’s Visit To State, Deep Cracks Emerge In Trinamool 's Meghalaya Unit

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Jul 9, 2022 07:43 PM +05:30 IST
Days After Abhishek Banerjee’s Visit To State, Deep Cracks Emerge In Trinamool 's Meghalaya UnitAbhishek Banerjee in Meghalaya (Facebook)
  • Four of the 12 legislators who the Trinamool had inducted with a lot of fanfare last year are now learnt to be planning to shift to other parties.

The maiden visit by Trinamool’s 'crown prince' and Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek to Meghalaya is turning out to be an inauspicious one for the state unit of the party.

Days after his visit, which raised a storm in the hill state for his acerbic and intemperate attack on chief minister Conrad Sangma, the Meghalaya unit of the Trinamool is faced with a grave crisis with one third of its legislators likely to switch over to other parties.

The Trinamool, which formed a unit in Meghalaya a few years ago, had failed to make a mark there. But in end-November last year, 12 of the 17 Congress MLAs of the state defected to the Trinamool.

The defectors were led by former chief minister Mukul Sangma, who held parleys with Trinamool seniors, including Abhishek Banerjee, before joining the Bengal-based political party. Trinamool’s hired political strategist, Prashant Kishor, is said to have played an important part in enticing Sangma and the other MLAs, who were unhappy with the state Congress leadership, to the Trinamool.

The Trinamool started dreaming big of making a splash in the tribal state of Meghalaya after it emerged as the principal opposition party in the state Assembly. Teams from Prashant Kishor’s Indian Political Action Team (I-PAC) stationed themselves in Meghalaya to conduct surveys to help the local unit of the party frame a political strategy for the next Assembly polls in the state slated for March 2023.

Trinamool leaders in Bengal, enthused by their success in breaking the Congress in Meghalaya and bagging a former chief minister of the hill state, started boasting that the party would expand exponentially in the Northeast.

“Meghalaya is our beachhead in the Northeast and we will start expanding very fast in the entire region from that state,” Trinamool chairperson Mamata Banerjee had boasted.

But that dream is fast turning sour. The Trinamool is slowly realising that, like in Goa and Tripura, it cannot hope to grow in an inorganic fashion by engineering defections from other parties.

This bitter truth would have hit Abhishek Banerjee when he went to Shillong late last month. One of the high points of his short itinerary in Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, was the inauguration of his party’s first office there.

But four of the 12 legislators who the Trinamool had inducted with a lot of fanfare last year-end gave the important event a miss. They were also absent from a party workers’ meeting that Banerjee addressed after inaugurating his party office in Shillong.

Banerjee, of course, brushed away queries on the absence of the four MLAs from his programmes, and proceeded to give a coarse speech.

Abhishek Banerjee’s vitriolic speech in Shillong not only drew a lot of flak, but has also deepened the fissures in the fledgling state unit of the party. The reason: many Trinamool ‘leaders’ in Meghalaya have baulked at Banerjee’s aggression, which is alien to Meghalaya’s genteel culture.

The four MLAs who stayed away from Banerjee’s meeting are now learnt to be planning to shift to other parties in the ruling alliance which also includes the BJP. What comes as a major blow to the Trinamool in Meghalaya is that the four disgruntled MLAs include bureaucrat-turned-politician Himalaya Muktan Shangpliang.

Shangpliang is close to Mukul Sangma and many feel that Shangpliang’s reported decision to leave the Trinamool has Sangma’s blessings. Shangpliang, say political observers, would not have expressed his dissatisfaction and stayed away from Banerjee’s events, and would also not be contemplating a move to another party, without Sangma’s consent.

The other MLAs who are planning to move away from the Trinamool are Shitlang Pale, Marthon D Sangma and Jimmy D Sangma. The latter two are also close to Mukul Sangma.

These four MLAs, say people close to them, have more or less decided against contesting the 2023 Assembly polls on Trinamool tickets. Political circles in Meghalaya say that they may continue in the Trinamool for a few more months till the end of this year and then resign.

That’s because they do not want to lose their memberships of the Assembly right now. If they break away from the Trinamool and join any other party, they will automatically lose their membership of the Assembly.

Political observers told Swarajya that by the time Assembly elections are held in March next year, the Trinamool may even cease to exist in Meghalaya! That’s because not just the four MLAs, but also the remaining eight, may not want to contest as Trinamool candidates in the next Assembly elections.

The reason is the growing realisation among the Trinamool MLAs and other functionaries that their party is viewed as a Bengal-based provincial party by an overwhelming majority of the tribals of the state.

“These Trinamool MLAs and other newly-inducted party functionaries have been meeting their constituents and people in general and have been receiving negative feedback from them about their party (Trinamool). The tribal people of Meghalaya will not accept a Bengal-based party and will not vote for such a provincial party,” said Dorlington Massar, a political observer.

“If people in Meghalaya want to vote for a non-Congress and non-BJP party, they will opt for the indigenous parties of the state. There is no reason why they should vote for the Trinamool which is essentially a Bengal-based provincial party,” said Teresa Nonkyrih, a teacher of political science who has published works on choices exercised by the state’s electorate in the past.

What has added to this widespread perception of the Trinamool is Banerjee’s aggressive speech in Shillong. “The aggression that he displayed, and his choice of abusive words, are alien to Meghalaya. The Trinamool is known for its intolerance of opposition in Bengal and the violence it unleashes on political opponents. The people of Meghalaya do not want that political culture and hence the antipathy towards the Trinamool has only increased after Abhishek Banerjee’s speech,” said Nongkynrih.

Many others--politicians, media persons, civil society leaders, professionals etc--that Swarajya spoke to agreed with Nongkynrih.

This is why the four MLAs are planning to leave the Trinamool. And others may also follow suit.

Abhishek Banerjee had led his party’s political campaign in Tripura and Goa. And he failed in both the states. Meghalaya is also likely to dish out a similar disappointment to him.

Also read: Abhishek Banerjee launches vitriolic attack on Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma, faces backlash for introducing ‘alien culture’ to state

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

Get Swarajya in your inbox everyday. Subscribe here.

An Appeal...

Dear Reader,

As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.

Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.

We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.

Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.

Become A Patron
Become A Subscriber
Comments ↓
Get Swarajya in your inbox everyday. Subscribe here.

Latest Articles

    Artboard 4Created with Sketch.