Mamata heads to Goa to widen Trinamool footprint

The party is in talks with independent, smaller parties to build up a long term base

Updated - October 24, 2021 08:24 am IST

Published - October 23, 2021 05:27 pm IST - New Delhi

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at her Kalighat residence in Kolkata, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at her Kalighat residence in Kolkata, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021.

West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress President Mamata Banerjee is heading to Goa on October 28 for her maiden political visit to the State even as her party prepares to put down its roots in Goa. The February 2022 Assembly elections are just the first mile stone in what the TMC claims will be a long term engagement.

As of now, the TMC has got two sitting legislators — Congress’s Luizinho Falerio, who joined the party and was appointed vice-president on Friday, and independent MLA Prasad Goankar, who has announced support for the TMC and is expected to join the party close to polls. The Congress, which is the lead opposition party here, has only four legislators.

Sources said the party is also talking to other independent legislators and smaller parties to join TMC . More leaders are expected to join the party during Ms Banerjee’s visit. “We will exceed the Congress’s tally in a month's time,” a senior TMC leader said.

Rajya Sabha seat carrot

The party also has one Rajya Sabha seat vacant, after the sitting MP Arpita Ghosh resigned. This seat will be utilised to accommodate new TMC entrants from Goa.

Keeping in mind the fickle politics of Goa, where the legislators often switch loyalties, the TMC is negotiating for loyalty. “Whoever wants to be with the TMC will have to join us and subsume their identity with that of the TMC,” the leader added.

After the May 2021 victory in West Bengal Assembly polls against an aggressive BJP, the TMC has often claimed that it is better suited to counter the saffron party than the Congress. There have also been significant changes in the party’s working style with the appointment of Abhishek Banerjee as the national general secretary, and the signing of a five-year contract with the political consultancy firm, I-PAC.

The party is clear that it will not spread itself thin by contesting in States just to retain its national party status.

“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 said.

Focused growth

For now, the TMC is targeting only two States outside of West Bengal. In 2022, TMC is concentrating all its energies on 40 Assembly seats in Goa and in 2023 the 60 seats in Tripura. This will give them a total of 46 Lok Sabha seats to contest from in 2024 (42 in Bengal and two each in Tripura and Goa).

The choice of Tripura is obvious because there is a large Bengali speaking population and the TMC has had a presence for a long time.

“Zeroing down on Goa was more of a strategic decision. Political survey show that the current Pramod Sawant-led BJP government faces high disapproval ratings. 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. So, there was space for us,” the leader added.

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