The Real Target Of The Brewing Revolt In Trinamool Against Prashant Kishor Is Mamata Banerjee’s Nephew Abhishek

Jaideep Mazumdar

Nov 20, 2020, 12:00 PM | Updated 12:05 PM IST

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her nephew Mamata Banerjee. 
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her nephew Mamata Banerjee. 
  • Prashant Kishor is a convenient punching bag since he is an ‘outsider’. The target of the brewing revolt in the Trinamool is Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek.
  • Over the past few weeks, a number of senior and mid-level functionaries of the Trinamool have voiced their resentment, both publicly and privately, against the dominance of political strategist Prahant Kishor and his team in party affairs.

    But Kishor, who has been reportedly hired for a whopping Rs 400 crore by Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee to help her retain power in 2021, is an easy and convenient punching bag since he is an ‘outsider’.

    The actual target, say Trinamool insiders, is Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek. The latter’s only qualification is his kinship with the Trinamool chief.

    Abhishek’s rise in the Trinamool has been at the cost of many other leaders whose political ambitions have been snuffed out. This has caused a lot of resentment within the party.

    Also, a self-serving coterie around Abhishek comprising some leaders with little or no grassroots connect have started calling the shots in the party and have sidelined veterans who have been with the party for many years.

    After the BJP’s handsome performance in the Lok Sabha elections last year, a panicky Mamata Banerjee heeded her nephew’s suggestion to rope in Kishor to arrest the downslide of her party.

    It was Abhishek who contacted Kishor and escorted him to a meeting with Mamata Banerjee at the state secretariat soon after the Lok Sabha elections.

    That was a closed door meeting where only the three--the Trinamool chief, her nephew and Kishor--were present.

    Since then, Kishor has held a few meetings with Mamata Banerjee, but even the senior most Trinamool leaders have been shut out of those meetings.

    Only Abhishek has been privy to those meetings, and this has caused no little heartburn within the party. Especially since Abhishek has little political experience and expertise.

    Kishor inducted his team--India Political Action Committee (IPAC)--comprising more than a hundred young men and women drawn from various parts of the country to work in Bengal.

    The core IPAC team, functioning under Kishor’s direct supervision, recruited many other local youngsters.

    The entire machinery was deployed to implement outreach programmes designed by Kishor like Didi Ke Bolo (asking people to take their complaints and requests to Mamata Banerjee directly).

    Simultaneously, Kishor also created a network independent of the Trinamool to acquire feedback from the masses about various government programmes and their implementation, and also about individual Trinamool functionaries and the work they have been doing.

    All these findings are submitted regularly to the Trinamool chief and once again, the only other person who gets to see them is Abhishek Banerjee.

    Based on feedback from the masses that are collected and collated by IPAC, Mamata Banerjee has been hauling up her erring party functionaries.

    Strong rumors have been circulating within the Trinamool for quite some time now that based on Kishor’s recommendations, many sitting MLAs, including a few Ministers, may not get the party tickets to contest the 2021 Assembly polls.

    The IPAC team has been issuing directions to MLAs and senior as well as mid-level party functionaries, triggering a lot of resentment.

    Many MLAs and district-level office-bearers of the Trinamool have been complaining about being bossed around by youngsters from other states who have no idea of ground realities in Bengal and lack any political experience or expertise.

    A few MLAs have told Swarajya that their rivals within the party have been rigging the system set up by IPAC to obtain feedback from the masses about their public representatives.

    These ‘rivals’ have been paying people to provide negative feedback about the MLAs and this, they (the legislators) fear, would result in their fall from favour with the party chief and denial of party ticket to them.

    The IPAC has been managing the social media accounts of most Trinamool leaders almost exclusively without those leaders even being aware of what is being posted from their accounts.

    Also, Kishor’s trusted lieutenants have been approaching leaders (including MLAs and ex-MLAs) belonging to the Congress and Left with offers to join the Trinamool.

    Such ‘offers’ include the promise of party tickets to contest the 2021 Assembly polls. This has, obviously, created a lot of insecurity among sitting MLAs.

    That many leaders of other parties have slammed their doors, literally, on the faces of Kishor’s teams is another story and speaks volumes of the ham-handed and politically inept manner in which the IPAC is functioning.

    However, Kishor’s many actions, and the veil of secrecy over them, has triggered huge resentment in the Trinamool, especially in the senior and middle-level ranks.

    And, naturally, Trinamool leaders have been speaking out against Kishor and his mode of functioning. But even as they do so, it is Abhishek Banerjee who is their actual target.

    That’s because they hold Abhishek primarily responsible for bringing in Kishor. And they believe that Abhishek did that in order to hide his own failings and shortcomings.

    Abhishek had been given the responsibility of ensuring the victory of Trinamool candidates in many constituencies in North Bengal before last year’s Lok Sabha polls.

    But he failed miserably and the BJP bagged most of the seats from North Bengal. Many Trinamool leaders believe that it is order to deflect his aunt’s anger and gloss over his failing that Abhishek swiftly roped in Prashant Kishor to contain the Trinamool’s decline.

    Abhishek Banerjee speaking at a Trinamool event while Prashant Kishor (extreme left) looks on. (Facebook)
    Abhishek Banerjee speaking at a Trinamool event while Prashant Kishor (extreme left) looks on. (Facebook)

    A top-ranking Trinamool leader told Swarajya that Kishor, instead of doing any good to the party, is actually doing a lot of harm.

    “A seasoned politician does not need a strategist. And the programmes that Kishor has been designing like Didi Ke Bolo are redundant. Such artificial outreach programmes managed by apolitical youngsters drafted from other states have no meaning,” he said.

    “Getting the votes of people is not the same as selling soap to them and so the strategies of the two have to be different. IPAC treats politics like a business venture and the electorate as clients whose preferences it is trying to fathom. Had politics been business, management graduates would have made the best politicians,” scoffed the Trinamool leader who holds an important portfolio and has been with the Trinamool since its formation.

    A number of MLAs, like Cooch Behar South MLA Mihir Goswami, Barrackpore MLA Shilabhadra Dutta and Sitai MLA Jagadish Barma Basunia have spoken out openly against Kishor. Many are waiting for a chance to hit out at Trinamool’s prized strategist.

    But the actual target of their ire is Abhishek, who they have started comparing to Rahul Gandhi. Just as Rahul Gandhi has become a liability for the Congress, Abhishek will also become one very soon, they say.

    Many in the Trinamool are watching what move Suvendu Adhikari, who has been making angry noises and indirectly targeting Abhishek, makes.

    If Suvendu breaks away from the party, at least ten to fifteen MLAs and a number of  senior and mid-ranking Trinamool functionaries from the Purba and Paschim Midnapore districts, Howrah, Hooghly, Purulia, Bankura, Jhargram, Malda and Murshidabad districts will follow him.

    Suvendu has been resenting the rise of Abhishek in the party and has been unhappy with Mamata Banerjee for giving undeserved prominence and importance to her nephew.

    The Trinamool chief has, of late, been trying to placate Suvendu. But her choice of a mediator--Prashant Kishor--to woo Suvendu has boomeranged.

    Suvendu, and many others in the Trinamool who have contributed a lot to the growth of the party, hold that Kishor and his backer--Abhishek--represent all that has gone wrong with the Trinamool.

    And that till this is rectified--Abhishek’s wings clipped and Kishor’s contract terminated--an electoral disaster awaits Trinamool next year.

    Also Read:

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

    Far From Being An Asset, ‘Team PK’ Could Well Turn Out To Be Trinamool’s Liability

    Why Prashant Kishor’s Political Prescription For Mamata Banerjee May Not Work

    Growing Disquiet Within Trinamool Over Predominance Of Mamata Banerjee's Nephew Abhishek

    Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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