Trinamool old guard defends turf against new entrants

January 1st, 2012 - 3:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Mamata Banerjee Kolkata, Jan 1 (IANS) With the Trinamool Congress holding the reins of power in West Bengal, infighting over alleged sharing of spoils has given shape to what analysts have termed the fight between ‘red’ and ‘green’ Trinamool.

Since its victory in the May 2011 state polls, the Mamata Banerjee-led party has seen a turf war between two groups - those with the party since its inception in 1998 and those who joined it just before the polls or after the formation of the government.

The former are being called the ‘Green Trinamool’, while the new entrants are dubbed ‘Red Trinamool’.

The Red Trinamool group comprises mainly new entrants - political opportunists, Left Front renegades, defectors from the Congress and small parties.

The infighting came out in the open after a Trinamool supporter was killed in suburban Kolkata over real estate syndicate links. His supporters alleged a senior state minister was behind the killing.

“Anti-socials and opportunists always want to be with the ruling party. This in turn will hurt the old party members as they have been marginalised. This in the long turn will affect the party as it had affected the CPI-M (Communist Party of India - Marxist),” political scientist Sabyasachi Basu Rai Chaudhuri said.

The trend of political activists from other outfits joining Trinamool started just before the 2009 Lok Sabha poll. The flow increased after Banerjee started rewarding the defectors and intellectuals with plum posts and even Lok Sabha tickets.

To name a few, former CPI-M leader Abu Ayesh Mondol, former Congress state president Somen Mitra, Congress leader Sudip Bandopadhyay (who earlier left Trinamool in 2002) and singer Kabir Suman were awarded plum posts and party tickets after joining Trinamool.

The trend continued even during the last assembly polls, when Banerjee awarded tickets to intellectuals, former bureaucrats and IPS officers who were once close to the Left and even Trinamool defectors. In the process, many old timers who had been with Banerjee during her troubled times were ignored.

The faultlines were exposed when several ‘old’ Trinamool supporters in various constituencies refused to campaign for the ‘new’ candidates.

“The party has become a dustbin. Infighting and factionalism are sure to happen in such one-person parties,” CPI-M central committee member Mohammed Salim said.

The tussle between the two groups is also evident during various school committee elections — taken very seriously in rural Bengal as it is considered to be a gateway to panchayat and municipal bodies.

With the CPI-M in complete disarray, the Trinamool high command was sure of sweeping the school committee elections. But unfortunately it witnessed a bitter infighting between old timers and new comers, with both the groups putting up their own candidates.

On Dec 30, a teacher in charge of a school in North 24 Parganas district was injured when he tried to intervene in a clash between the two groups, who wanted their respective candidates to be elected the new secretary of the school.

Trinamool’s chief whip of the legislative assembly, Shovandeb Chattopadhyay, said: “As we are a democratic party, it is very easy for unholy elements to enter our fold. But the old timers are our assets and they will remain so.”

Alliance partner Congress has on several occasions cautioned Banerjee on the matter.

“These things happen in a party which runs a one (wo)man show. When its leaders don’t have any proper political education such things are bound to happen,” said state Congress leader Arunavo Ghosh.

There have been incidents where the same businessman has allegedly paid money to several ‘new’ Trinamool leaders. The situation was later controlled by a strict warning from Banerjee, who asked the business community not to pay anybody who calls up in the name of the party.

“The issue of infighting is true to some extent. As the party membership is increasing every day, the biggest challenge is to screen the supporters who want to join the party,” said Chattopadhyay.

A section of the Trinamool leadership, however, blamed the CPI-M for the chaos.

“The CPI-M is totally devastated and that’s why they are sending these unscrupulous elements to our party to malign us,” said Trinamool MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar.

(Pradipta Tapadar can be reached at pradipta.t@ians.in)

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