Goa: Trinamool Seeks Tactical Alliance With Congress, Latter Unlikely To Oblige Easily

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Jan 12, 2022 06:30 PM
Goa: Trinamool Seeks Tactical Alliance With Congress, Latter Unlikely To Oblige EasilyMamata Banerjee arrives in Goa on 28 October 2021. (Photo: AITC Goa/Twitter)
  • The Trinamool, and its chief Mamata Banerjee, did create a buzz in Goa when they set foot there a few months ago.

    However, it has now realised that it can only go this far and no further in Goa.

The Trinamool Congress, which has been wanting to make its presence felt in Goa in order to assert its pan-Indian ambitions, has ultimately realized the limitations that it faces in the coastal state.

The Bengal-based party, which started harbouring ‘national’ ambitions after thwarting the BJP’s bid to capture power in Bengal in mid-2021, invested huge resources to gain a toehold in Goa. It engineered defections of leaders and some workers from other parties, primarily the Congress, into its fledgling state unit.

The Trinamool, and its chief Mamata Banerjee, did create a buzz in Goa when they set foot there a few months ago. A few high-profile inductions, including that of former chief minister and senior Congress leader Luizinho Faleiro, created some tailwind for the Trinamool’s soft landing in Goa.

The Trinamool also formed an alliance with the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), and has been trying to entice, with mixed success, mid and junior-level functionaries from the Congress and the Goa Forward Party (GFP), a Congress ally.

However, it has now realised that it can only go this far and no further in Goa. For one, the Trinamool, despite its strenuous efforts to live down its Bengal roots, is still viewed by a majority of the Goans as a Bengal-based party.

“The Trinamool is not even viewed by people of Goa as an all-India party. Everyone here looks at it as a provincial party based in Bengal and knows that it wants to establish a presence in Goa not out of any love for the state and its people, but only in order to boost its credentials as an all-India party and further the Prime Ministerial ambitions of Mamata Banerjee. Everyone realises that the Trinamool has come to Goa for very selfish reasons and is not a serious player here,” explained an assistant professor of Goa University who did not want to be named.

This assistant professor, who teaches modern Indian political thought at the University, told Swarajya from Goa: “The Trinamool erred in choosing the path of engineering defections from other parties instead of growing organically. No political party can expect to establish its presence in any state only by engineering defections from other parties”.

His views are echoed by a cross-section of politicians, political analysts, media persons, intellectuals and others in Goa.

The Trinamool, pointed out former Congress legislator Francisco ‘Mickky’ Pacheco, does not have any distinct ideology and long-term vision or plan for Goa. “It is well known that Mamata Banerjee depends on populism to win elections. In Goa, too, she is promising a lot of doles. But people of Goa are not stupid and can see through the machinations of this Bengal-based party,” said Pacheco.

Former Ponda MLA Lavoo Mamledar who resigned from the Trinamool recently and joined the Congress, said that the Trinamool has no vision or programme for Goa.

“I realised after joining the Trinamool (in end-September) the terrible mistake that I committed. The Trinamool has no love for Goa and Goans and is here only for its narrow political interests,” Mamledar told Swarajya.

Mamledar also said that despite inducting senior leaders (like Luizinho Faleiro), it is leaders from Bengal who control the affairs of the party in Goa. “The Trinamool in Goa is firmly under the thumb of the party minders from Bengal and it is their diktats which prevail. Goa has to be ruled by Goans, and not by provincial politicians from Bengal,” he added.

It is because of all these factors and perceptions that the Trinamool has not been able to grow beyond a point in Goa. And that’s why it is now desperately seeking an alliance with the Congress.

Mahua Moitra, Trinamool’s Goa minder, tweeted last week that her party would look forward to an alliance with the Congress and other parties in order to defeat the BJP in Goa.

“This is proof that realisation has dawned on the Trinamool about its severe limitations in Goa. So now it wants to piggyback on the Congress. The Trinamool has realised that on its own, it cannot win even three seats in Goa and so, in order to post a respectable performance, it wants an alliance with the Congress,” said Mamledar.

But the Congress is in no mood to oblige. Dinesh R Gundu Rao, the Congress’ Goa desk-in-charge, ruled out any alliance with the Trinamool.

“The whole approach and attempt by the Trinamool right from Day 1 in Goa has been negative towards the Congress and aimed at attacking and weakening the Congress instead of the BJP. They poached our MLAs and now want an alliance with us in order to ensure tickets for the defectors. That is not happening,” said the Congress leader.

Congress leader and former legislator Pacheco said: “The Trinamool entered Goa with the intent of defeating the BJP here. But it has engineered defections from the Congress and tried to weaken the Congress. Now it has the audacity to ask for an alliance with the Congress”.

Congress leaders told Swarajya that Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar has been drafted by Mamata Banerjee to convince the Congress leadership to agree to an alliance with the Trinamool in Goa.

“Our party high command held discussions on this, but were told that the sentiments of our workers were totally against the Trinamool. The Trinamool should not be allowed any leeway in Goa. Mamata Banerjee and other Trinamool leaders attacked our central leaders including Rahul Gandhi and raised questions about their political commitment. Our (Congress) workers are angry and their sentiments should be honoured. An alliance with the Trinamool in Goa will never work on the ground,” said a senior Congress leader who was involved in recent discussions on poll preparations in Goa with his party ‘high command’.

A pre-poll alliance between the Trinamool and the NCP also seems unlikely at the moment. That’s because the Trinamool, suffering from an exaggerated notion of its strength in Goa, is offering just four seats to the NCP.

Churchill Alemao, who was elected on an NCP ticket in 2017 and switched over to the Trinamool recently, declared Tuesday (January 11) that his party had offered four seats to the NCP.

NCP leaders who spoke to Swarajya were bristling with rage at this ‘offer’. “The Trinamool fancies itself as a major player in Goa after having set foot in the state just a few months ago. Its offer of four seats to us is ludicrous and a grave insult to us,” said an NCP leader.

Alemao, incidentally, said that an alliance with the Congress is highly unlikely. “The Congress is out of the reckoning in Goa, and so an alliance with a has-been is out of the question,” he said.

The Congress is unlikely to take such statements very lightly and swallow its pride to join hands with the Trinamool in Goa. An overwhelming majority of Congress leaders and workers in Goa are against any alliance with Mamata Banerjee.

“Let the Trinamool fight the elections on its own and realise that it is worth nothing in Goa. Why should the Congress help the Trinamool gain a foothold in Goa? Doing that would be suicidal for the Congress since Mamata Banerjee will leverage a respectable performance in Goa (in case of an alliance with the Congress) to challenge the Congress in Delhi,” said Gundu Rao.

The Trinamool, having projected itself as a major player in Goa and having expended huge resources in the coastal state, now stares at the dim prospect of failing spectacularly at the hustings. That’s why it wants to clutch at straws — alliances with the Congress and other non-BJP parties.

The Trinamool knows very well that an electoral setback in Goa would pour cold water on its ‘national’ ambitions and scupper Mamata Banerjee’s dream of playing a major role in Delhi.

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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