TMC’s three big challenges: panchayat polls, corruption, national relevance

Kolkata, Dec 27 (IANS)
The year 2023 will undoubtedly be challenging for the Trinamool Congress and as perceived by political analysts and observers, the challenges will be on three counts.
The first challenge will obviously be the three-tier panchayat polls in West Bengal scheduled to take place in 2023.
While the concern for the Trinamool Congress is not whether they would to retain control in majority of three tiers, if not in all, the actual challenge is on whether the state administration would be able to ensure a free and fair poll minus a bloodbath and body counts to enable the state’s ruling party come clean of allegations of winning rural civic polls only though unleashing violence.
While opposition parties like the BJP, CPI(M) and Congress have already started raising apprehensions of bloodbaths and body-counts in the wake of regular recoveries of illegal firearms, explosives and crude bombs from different corners of rural Bengal, the Trinamool Congress general secretary Kunal Ghosh claimed that these recoveries are evidences of how keen the state administration in recovering such items and ensure peaceful panchayat polls.
Ghosh said: “As clearly instructed by our national general secretary and party Lok Sabha member Abhishek Banerjee the panchayat polls would be absolutely peaceful and the party leadership will not tolerate any party insider to malign the image of the party by acting otherwise. His message has gone clear down the party lines.”
According to veteran political analyst and commentator Amal Sarkar, the forthcoming panchayat polls are both an opportunity and challenge for the ruling Trinamool Congress.
Elaborating on this, Sarkar said: “The opportunity is that because of the various dole schemes the popularity of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is still intact among the rural poor, for whom the grants under these schemes are the essential means of livelihood. However, the problem with Trinamool Congress is that by majority they do not mean 51 per cent. Majority for them means 100 per cent if not at least 80 per cent.
“As is evident from the recent sequence of events the Trinamool Congress leadership is desperate to develop a working relationship with the central leadership of the BJP especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah for various reasons known to all of us.
“In such a situation, if the Trinamool Congress resorts to similar violence to ensure the grabbing of that 100 per cent or at least 90 per cent, then their attempts to develop a workable relationship with BJP’s central leadership will undoubtedly will take a jolt, since neither the Prime Minister nor the Union Home Minister will sacrifice their party’s interests in the state considering that in 2019, they had won in 19 out of 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state.”
The second challenge for the ruling party will be to adopt a perfect line of counter-campaign against the multi-angle onslaught on corruption issues like constant opposition propaganda, rallies and agitation on such issues, coupled with the enhancing pace of the central agency probes in these matters and constant salvos from the judicial system on this venality point.
Veteran Trinamool Congress legislator Tapas Roy says that at least the BJP and CPI(M) have no business pointing fingers at the party on corruption issues, considering the massive Vyapam scam in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh and the irregularities in the recruitment of teachers by the erstwhile Left Front regime in Tripura, which led to thousands of teachers losing their jobs.
“As regards to court observations we have nothing to say since these are judicial matters. As regards to central agency probes, the stand of our party is clear that while we maintain the stand of zero tolerance about corruption, at the same time we demand the central agencies to complete their probe processes on a time bound basis instead of dragging it for year helping our opponents to garner political mileage out of it,” Roy said.
Veteran political analyst and former registrar of Calcutta University, Rajagopal Dhar Chakraborty said that from the logic expressed by Trinamool Congress leaders in countering the opposition attacks, it is evident that they are resorting to some unfounded logic in their counter-arguments.
“It seems that they are indirectly trying to justify one mistake by quoting another. But there again lies the question on how far the opposition can take up this corruption issue to the grassroots level and impact the mindset of the voters,” he said.
According to the CPI(M) politburo member and the party’s state secretary in West Bengal, Mohammed Salim, it is clear that under pressure because of court-monitored central agency probes, the chief minister has virtually surrendered to the BJP’s central leadership.
“Despite having valid passports, the members of the Chief Minister’s family have to travel abroad only after getting permission from the court. What more can be the reason to prompt such a surrender?” Salim asked.
The third and final challenge for the Trinamool Congress next year will be to maintain its national-level relevance in the backdrop of the Lok Sabha polls in 2024.
While the Chief Minister has confidently said that before the Lok Sabha polls all major opposition parties like Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal (United) and Rashtriya Janata Dal will automatically get united against the BJP, political observers feel that the task would not be that easy for her party to regain a matter of importance in the opposition space.
Veteran political commentator Santanu Sanyal pointed how the Trinamool Congress is literally caught between a rock and a hard place.
He said: “After her party’s stand on the polls for the Vice President, where the Trinamool Congress chose to abstained from voting instead of supporting the unanimously selected opposition candidate, Margaret Alva, her credibility among the non-BJP parties at the national level has been impacted in major ways.
“It is possible for Mamata Banerjee to maintain her national relevance if she enters into a tacit understanding with the BJP’s central leadership. In that case the propaganda of the Left parties and the Congress on this account against the Trinamool Congress, which is already happening, will gain further ground, thus impacting Trinamool’s dedicated minority vote bank in West Bengal.
“The next year will therefore pose the biggest challenge to the TMC’s attempts to gain national-level relevance.”

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