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New Delhi: Ahead of her maiden visit to Goa where the Trinamool Congress (TMC) intends to fight in all 40 assembly seats in the upcoming elections, West Bengal chief minister and party president Mamata Banerjee has urged people to come together to defeat the “divisive” agenda of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The TMC’s foray into electoral politics in Goa comes following its resounding victory in the West Bengal assembly polls earlier this year, where it successfully warded off a major push for power by the saffron party.
Soon after the assembly polls, Banerjee’s nephew and newly elected national general secretary of the TMC Abhishek Banerjee had declared that the party would expand its base in other states to take on the BJP. “Whichever state we start our unit in, be it a big state, a southern India, a northern India or one in the Northeast, we will take the BJP head-on and we will start our unit to win the state. Let me put this across to all of you,” he had announced then.
Abhishek, who is also a young Lok Sabha MP, had stated that whatever plan the party would come up with would be different from what it had tried in the past. “This attempt of the Trinamool to go national is going to be different from what it attempted in the past. If we go to any state, no matter how small or big, we will not go only to take part in elections, not to win one or two seats and not to increase vote share. We will do so to win that state. We want to be the platform of choice for people of that particular state. We don’t want to exist in the form of opposition,” he continued.
The TMS has this year made several changes in strategising its future. It has appointed Abhishek for a five-year term. Also, the party has also engaged Prashant Kishor’s political strategy group Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) to advise it on various matters.
The results have started showing. As part of its ambition to get a foothold in Goa, the party roped in a sitting legislator – former chief minister of Goa, Luizinho Falerio of the Congress, who has also been made national vice-president by the TMC. Faleria recently said that I-PAC, which is carrying out an extensive survey in Goa, had played a major role in him deciding to join the TMC.
Having shown its intent to put up a serious fight in Goa, the TMC is now working towards establishing itself as a major opposition to the BJP in the state. It hopes to outdo the Congress, which had just four legislators in the 40-member assembly this time, said a party leader.
Mamata Banerjee, while speaking about her two-day visit to Goa from October 28, said, “I call upon all individuals, organisations and political parties to defeat the BJP and their divisive agenda. The people have suffered enough over the last 10 years.”
Banerjee promised to provide a government to the people that would fulfil their aspirations. “Together, we will usher a new dawn in Goa by forming a new government that will truly be a government of the people and committed to realising their aspirations!” she said in a tweet.
The TMC’s urge to take on the BJP, however, also puts it on a path of confrontation with not only the Congress, but also other parties like the Aam Aadmi Party, which too have been fighting the BJP in states where they rule or have a significant presence. AAP ended up with a nearly 6% vote share in Goa in the last assembly polls in 2017, and this time it has appointed Delhi MLA Atishi Marlena, who is known for her contribution in education reforms in the national vapital, as its party in-charge in the west Indian state.
However, the TMC does not appear too bothered about how other parties fare in the process and is more keen on strengthening its own base and projecting it as a truly national party.
It is also expected that the party may accommodate a new entrant from Goa on the Rajya Sabha seat that fell vacant after its MP Arpita Ghosh resigned.
Citing unnamed TMC leaders, media reports have stated that the party, which was recognised as a national party by the Election Commission of India in 2016, would only approach the polls in newer states when it would feel the time is right. “The goal is to contest to form the government or be the lead opposition party. A seat here or a seat there is no longer our target,” a top party leader from Kolkata was cited by The Hindu as saying.
Apart from Goa, where the party may contest all 40 seats, the leader said, the party was also keen on contesting 60 seats in Tripura in the 2023 polls. As for its entry in Goa impacting the Congress and AAP, he said, “The Congress has lost credibility in the state after 10 of its MLAs joined the BJP after the 2017 assembly results. The AAP meanwhile has been around for a while but has failed to make its presence felt.”
It has also been reported that Rajya Sabha MP and senior party leader Derek O’Brien has set up an office in Panjim and has been spending a lot of time there as he is concentrating on elections in the state.
Meanwhile, another party leader was cited as saying that TMC may ally with smaller parties in Goa. On why it has not made up its mind on joining hands with AAP, he said, “Kejriwal’s key focus is Punjab and Haryana. We don’t think we will benefit from an alliance with the AAP in Goa.”