Battlefield 2024: Why Mamata Banerjee is pushing for ‘Gandhi-mukt’ Congress

The Trinamool Congress chief hopes to separate the Congress and take over a big chunk of the celebration, which would be the fulcrum of an anti-Narendra Modi entrance of the Opposition in 2024

File photograph of a supporter of the TMC celebration celebrating with others the victory of Mamata Banerjee within the West Bengal Assembly electi ons. AFP

It’s not obscure why Mamata Banerjee goes after Rahul Gandhi with the ferocity she often reserves for Narendra Modi. No problem to Modi in 2024 has even a distant probability of success so long as the Gandhi-led Congress stays a distraction on the electoral battlefield.

It’s no secret that Modi’s strategists take into account Rahul Gandhi their greatest political asset. His “Pappu” picture brings Modi’s 56-inch chest into sharp aid and boosts the BJP’s “there is no alternative” narrative. Not solely has Rahul Gandhi steered the Congress to its nadir ever since Modi appeared on the political panorama, just about each time the 2 events have gone head-to-head in an election, particularly in a nationwide ballot, the BJP has emerged the winner.

To buttress the purpose, right here’s an fascinating factoid from the 2019 parliamentary election. Of the 186 Lok Sabha seats during which the Congress was the principle challenger to the BJP, it received solely 15 seats. The BJP’s strike price in these seats was 92 %.

There are simply two years left for the following basic election and anti-BJP forces are working out of persistence with Rahul Gandhi’s desultory politics which don’t appear to make even the smallest dent in Modi’s Teflon-coated armour. He might elevate the proper points and flood social media with scathing tweets however on the bottom, he and his celebration appear to make little influence.

This is the place Mamata Banerjee is available in. Riding excessive after crushing the BJP with a surprising victory within the West Bengal Assembly polls earlier this 12 months, she has determined to step in and fill the breach that the Gandhi Congress ought to have been attempting to plug in preparation for 2024. But to achieve success, she has to increase her footprint past West Bengal and morph the Trinamool Congress right into a nationwide celebration.

Neither Mamata Banerjee nor her backroom technique crew headed by ballot tactician Prashant Kishor, who comes with a formidable status for serving to his shoppers to win an election, are naïve sufficient to imagine {that a} nationwide celebration able to taking up the BJP juggernaut will be inbuilt simply two years.

So they’ve devised a shortcut: Take over the Congress which already has a nationwide presence and even at its lowest level after a second successive annihilation by the BJP in 2019, managed to garner a vote share of 20 %.

Yes, opposite to widespread notion that she is aiding the BJP in realising its acknowledged ambition of a Congress-mukt Bharat, Mamata Banerjee hopes to create a Gandhi-mukt Congress by marginalising the household, splitting the celebration a la Indira Gandhi in 1969, taking up as giant a bit as will heed her name and refashioning it into the “real, back-to-its-roots” Congress which would be the fulcrum of an anti-Modi entrance of opposition events in 2024.


Her critics have dismissed her plans as a pipe-dream. Indeed, it’s totally potential that she is over-reaching herself. Except that the Congress has by no means seemed as ripe for a takeover because it does at present. Ten years of dropping elections, a crippling management disaster, a decaying organisation and ideological confusion have left the celebration brittle and unstable. Its ranks are depleting quickly with high-profile leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia and MLAs throughout the nation leaping ship to move for the BJP. Some have even joined Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress like in Meghalaya the place 12 of the Congress’ 17 MLAs switched allegiance lately.

The unrest within the Congress exploded in a stormy Working Committee assembly final 12 months after a bunch of 23 senior leaders wrote to Sonia Gandhi demanding an instantaneous course correction. The sharpest barb within the letter was meant for Rahul Gandhi when the writers emphasised the necessity for a “full-time and effective” management which is each “visible” and “active”. There couldn’t have been a extra stinging indictment of the Gandhi scion’s now-you-see-him, now-you-don’t fashion of management.

Mamata Banerjee is transferring quickly together with her eye firmly fastened on her goal. Strangely, regardless of all of the hype round her, a major assembly of the Trinamool Congress nationwide govt in Kolkata lately was largely ignored by the nationwide media, though there was an in depth briefing by TMC spokesperson Derek O’Brien and lately inducted former Janata Dal (United) MP Pavan Varma later.

The assembly is essential as a result of it marks step one within the shaping of Mamata Banerjee’s 2024 technique. The choices taken embody altering the title of the celebration by dropping the West Bengal-centric Trinamool however retaining Congress and revamping the structure to provide the brand new celebration a nationwide look whereas reaffirming its dedication to the beliefs of the Congress of the liberty motion. “This will be the real Congress,” stated Varma.

Significantly, Mamata Banerjee-authorised TMC leaders and naturally Kishor are in contact with members of the G-23, sad Congress leaders throughout the nation and leaders of Opposition events which can be more likely to be part of the entrance that’s within the making to problem Modi and the BJP in 2024. The response is believed to be constructive and enthusiastic with many Congress leaders expressing curiosity within the venture to refashion the grand outdated celebration with out the Gandhis.

According to these aware of Mamata Banerjee’s plans, her new celebration will likely be in place earlier than the upcoming spherical of 5 Assembly polls. The purpose for the haste is that 2024 isn’t far and extra importantly, ought to the Congress lose all 5 states, Mamata Banerjee can hope to make a run on the celebration.

At a time when the nation is desperately crying for an Opposition, Mamata Banerjee is the one political chief making a visual effort to fill the vacuum. She might or might not succeed. We will know in 2024. But no less than she dares to dream large.

The author is a veteran journalist and political commentator. Views expressed are private.

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