Prashant Kishor And Team Facing Pushback From Trinamool Rank And File For ‘Interference’

Prashant Kishor And Team Facing Pushback From Trinamool Rank And File For ‘Interference’

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Tuesday, September 8, 2020 11:37 AM IST
Prashant Kishor And Team Facing Pushback From Trinamool Rank And File For ‘Interference’Political strategist Prashant Kishor and Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
  • The pushback against Prashant Kishor and his team is slowly coalescing and gaining steam.

    Party leaders fear that if left unaddressed, it can cause a major upheaval within the Trinamool ahead of the crucial assembly polls next year.

Political strategist Prashant Kishor, who has been hired by Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee to help her win the forthcoming assembly polls next year, is facing a pushback from the party’s rank and file.

According to multiple sources in the Trinamool who spoke to Swarajya, resentment has been brewing against Kishor and his team — the Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) — for some time now over many recommendations that ‘Team PK’ is believed to have made to the party supremo.

These recommendations, it is learnt, include replacing at least 110 of the Trinamool’s 211 sitting MLAs and even removing district-level functionaries. Some of the 110 MLAs whose names figure in the list include heavyweight ministers.

Extensive surveys carried out by I-PAC have reportedly revealed that these 110 MLAs have a negative image among their constituents and if they are fielded again, they will lose their seats.

These legislators, the surveys have revealed, face charges ranging from corruption, nepotism, failure to address problems faced by their constituents or a disconnect from the people and plain incompetence.

Many district-level functionaries of the party, says ‘Team PK’, are also unpopular with the masses and their continuance in office would adversely affect Trinamool's electoral prospects. That is why it is necessary to replace them with fresh, non-controversial faces.

These recommendations have angered a large number of legislators and party functionaries who fear being denied re-nomination or losing their party posts if their party supremo accepts PK’s recommendations.

A lot of that anger is directed at Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek who is close to Kishor and had got him (Kishor) in after the setback suffered by the Trinamool in the Lok Sabha elections last year.

Immediately after the elections, in which the BJP posted a spectacular win of 18 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats, Abhishek roped in Kishor. Mamata Banerjee and her nephew have held long, closed door parleys with Kishor many times since then, thus fuelling disquiet within the party.

Even senior ministers and leaders have been kept out of those parleys and have not been privy to the discussions.

Tasked with crafting a strategy for the ensuing assembly polls, Kishor has engaged his I-PAC team that has set up offices all over the state and has been carrying out surveys as well as outreach programmes.

The activities of the I-PAC teams have triggered disquiet among Trinamool functionaries at the district level since district-level leaders see it as invasion of and interference in their turf by ‘outsiders’.

It hasn’t helped that most members of these I-PAC teams are from other states, mostly from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh.

The Trinamool chief has sent clear instructions to all party functionaries to cooperate with I-PAC.

“These young men and women are outsiders and have no political background. They do not know the political realities in Bengal and are functioning as people from marketing survey companies,” said the president of the Trinamool’s unit in a district in northern Bengal.

What has also caused acute discomfiture within the Trinamool is the secrecy surrounding I-PAC’s work, findings and recommendations. Kishor, on Mamata Banerjee’s directive, has expressly asked his team to establish only working relationships with party functionaries at the district levels and not get close to them.

Only the Trinamool chief and her nephew are privy to the I-PAC’s findings and recommendations, and this is leading to a lot of uncertainty and speculation within the party.

“There is a lot of flux within the party now and no one is sure of when and on whose necks the axe will be wielded. Uncertainty is rife within the party now,” confided a minister.

He added that the rumours and speculation swirling around over this is causing a lot of damage to the party.

Team PK’s involvement and interference in Trinamool's internal affairs has not only triggered anger, but also a lot of ridicule.

Recent media reports about I-PAC’s failed attempt to rope in some Left leaders into the Trinamool have come as a handy stick to beat ‘Team PK’ with.

I-PAC functionaries had identified some Left leaders, including a minister in the erstwhile Left Front government in the State, who were ‘clean’ and popular and had approached them to join the Trinamool. They were even promised ministerial berths in the next Trinamool government.

Expectedly, the Left leaders rebuffed the I-PAC’s overtures and even warned Kishor’s minions against contacting them again. The I-PAC’s amateurish conduct has evoked a lot of scorn and derision.

“Such grave political matters like engineering defections from other parties require a lot of finesse and cannot be executed by amateurs with little or no political grounding and backgrounds. The faux pas by I-PAC has made our party a laughing stock among people,” the minister said.

All this has led to Trinamool ministers and functionaries complaining against I-PAC to the party chief. Trinamool insiders confirm that a huge number of representations have been received against I-PAC and its functioning in Bengal’s political landscape.

The pushback against Prashant Kishor and his team is slowly coalescing and gaining steam. Party leaders fear that if left unaddressed, it can cause a major upheaval within the Trinamool ahead of the crucial assembly polls next year.

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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