By launching its pre-election campaign in Meghalaya much earlier than other major parties, the West Bengal-based Trinamool Congress (TMC) has highlighted its striking differences in terms of its general political approach and mobilisation programs. As Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee launched on Monday the TMC’s State Assembly election campaign in Meghalaya making a rare visit, there is a perceptible stirring of interest among entrenched local party leaders as well as common people. Most parties are in the process of gearing up for the coming polls scheduled for early next year. However, with poll dates not yet announced and other procedural formalities to be conducted by the State Election Commission pending, political campaigning is yet to warm up. During her three-day visit, Banerjee met leaders of various parties opposing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to explore the possibility of joint campaigning and also to win increased local support by way of acceptability among locals. However, the major emphasis would be on meeting with new party workers to carry out programs and assess present developments.
The preliminary ice-breaking exercise has been completed by TMC general secretary, Abhishek Banerjee (MP), who visited Meghalaya some weeks ago and addressed several well-attended rallies. He met new party workers and received valuable advice and local guidance from veteran local leaders like Mukul Sangma. Banerjee was also assisted by poll strategist Prashant Kishor and his expert IPAC team. They are helping the TMC’s strategic outreach into India’s Northeast. This looks somewhat odd, coming in the wake of Kishor’s assertion some time ago not to engage in such political assignments for any political party. Among regional leaders who helped Banerjee in the task of party building, Sushmita Dev, a former Congress leader from Silchar who recently joined the TMC, played a major role. She also led the party’s efforts to launch a few programs in neighboring Tripura State, to continue the TMC’s fight against the ruling BJP-run Government. The continuation of such activities to maintain the political momentum, was important from the TMC’s viewpoint, especially after its massive drubbing in the Tripura Municipal polls some time ago. Party supremo Banerjee is determined to ensure that the TMC is recognised as a nationally important party in the days ahead.
During Banerjee’s visit, the Meghalaya-based media had commented on the large size of public gatherings organised by the TMC at great expense and its elaborate use of costly banners and posters. But such trappings and features have been associated with the TMC’s present style of campaigning all over India, especially under Kishor’s tutelage. It is another matter that as impressive and colorful as the TMC’s public meetings are, they have so far failed to bring home the bacon anywhere except in West Bengal, so far. A few Shillong-based media reports suggest that the party expects a few senior politicians to join the TMC in Banerjee’s presence. State TMC leaders, now led by veteran former Congressman Dr. Mukul Sangma have been in touch with local parties and groups, in a bid to make Banerjee’s visit a memorable one. The party now has 11 MLAs in the 60-strong house, all of them having crossed over from the Congress, led by Dr. Sangma some time ago. However, although initially, 12 joined the TMC, one later quit the new party to join another, in the time-honoured traditions of NE politics where floor-crossing is not a dirty concept.