Banerjee’s road show is receiving massive support in the hinterlands of Bengal.
NEW DELHI: The growing popularity of Trinamool Congress’s second-in-command and national general secretary, Abhishek Banerjee, who is touring across Bengal and galvanising support for the party, has caught the West Bengal unit of the BJP off guard. The BJP unit is still not being able to devise a strategy to counter the TMC’s narrative.
According to on ground reports, Abhishek Banerjee’s road show and programmes are receiving massive support in the hinterlands of Bengal, where people are queuing up for kilometres to meet and talk to the second most powerful man in Bengal politics. Reports also suggest that Abhishek Banerjee has been able to convince the people that several funds, like the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme), PM Rural Awas Yojana, Mid-day Meal scheme, have been “deliberately” stopped by the Central (BJP) government to cause pain for the rural poor in Bengal as a “revenge” for them not electing the BJP in the 2021 Assembly elections.
Sources within the Bengal BJP say that the party has been “caught off guard” totally as it had not foreseen the popularity of Abhishek Banerjee to grow so fast in Bengal and they have not been able to devise a strategy to counter the narrative being pushed by Banerjee and the TMC in Bengal, ahead of the Panchayat polls, slated for the second half of this year.
“We are just left with two months for the Panchayat polls and while TMC, the ruling party, is on its way to regain strength, the BJP still has no strategy in place to counter the TMC. The TMC on the other hand is spreading misinformation regarding funds to the rural people and the BJP is not being able to counter this misinformation campaign,” a senior BJP functionary from Bengal told The Sunday Guardian.
Another BJP leader said that the BJP has no plan in place to take on the TMC ahead of the Panchayat polls. “We have still not been able to decide on a strategy to go-ahead in the panchayat elections. What the BJP is doing is only giving media bytes; that does not help the party to get votes. The BJP should start telling the people why the Centre has stopped giving funds to the state government. It is because of the huge corruption in the MGNREGA, Awas Yojana and the mid-day meal scheme. If rural Bengal is not told about this, they will believe what the TMC is saying,” the BJP leader told this newspaper. Abhishek Banerjee is on a 60-day tour across the 23 districts of West Bengal where he has been meeting the people and TMC cadre on a regular basis to sort out infighting and problems that exists between the party cadres.
Abhishek Banerjee is also holding organisational meetings with all level of leaders, starting from the booth president to the district president and MLAs and MPs of the party in every district on his tour. Sources in the TMC say that Abhishek Banerjee has set out on this journey after reports came from the ground that the TMC was losing traction in the rural parts of Bengal owing to corruption by the grassroots workers of the party.
“The TMC has been on the back-foot for quite some time now and sensing this, Abhishek Banerjee wanted to take command of the party ahead of the panchayat polls to rectify the mistakes that had gone unnoticed for very long now. He wants to create a perception that TMC is now a party with a difference where corrupt individuals would have no place in the party. He has been talking to booth workers and understanding the problems that have plagued the party. He also wants to consolidate on the minority vote bank that seems to be slipping from under the feet of the party. These are some of the agendas that has set him on this mission,” a TMC functionary from West Bengal told The Sunday Guardian.
Abhishek Banerjee started his 60-day tour of 23 districts of Bengal on 27 April and so far, he has visited at least three districts and have held organisational meetings. His tour started from the Cooch Behar district in North Bengal and has now reached Malda. The TMC hopes to win a maximum number of seats in the Panchayat elections which are slated to be held in the second half of this year. The 2019 Panchayat elections was marred by violence, where many Opposition candidates were not even allowed to file their nominations and at least 10 people were killed.