TMC eyes Meghalaya assembly polls after expansion plan fails in Goa, Tripura
TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, while on a three-day Meghalaya tour, said that her party has been able to enrol one lakh members in six months in the state
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s plans to consolidate anti-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) forces and win assembly seats in other states has now prompted her party, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), to focus on Meghalaya which goes to the polls in February 2023.
Banerjee, while on a three-day Meghalaya tour, told party workers in Shillong on Tuesday that sons of the soil will counter the National People’s Party (NPP)-led coalition government, in which the BJP is a partner, and rule the state.
“Meghalaya, where tribal communities comprise 70 % of the population, is ready for a change. We have been able to enrol one lakh members in six months. I have not come here to grab power. People of Meghalaya will determine their future,” Banerjee said in a bid to counter the BJP’s campaign branding TMC as an “alien from Bengal”.
After the TMC failed to win any seat in the Goa state elections and the Tripura by-polls despite rigorous campaign, the mission Meghalaya is not going to be a cakewalk but the party has an advantage because its face is former chief minister Dr Mukul Sangma, TMC’s poll managers feel.
Sangma, the leader of the Opposition in the Meghalaya assembly, left the Congress and joined the TMC with 12 MLAs in November 2021. He was the chief minister from 2010 to 2018.
Although the TMC has an advantage in the Garo Hills region that Sangma represents, a sizeable turnout was witnessed at its meetings in some other areas as well, party leaders claimed.
“I recently addressed a well-attended meeting at Jowai in the West Jaintia Hills district. The TMC is consolidating its position fast. How can the BJP call it a party from Bengal?” said Manas Bhunia, a West Bengal minister who has been put in charge of Meghalaya by Mamata Banerjee.
In the 60-member Meghalaya assembly, the BJP, which had only two legislators, gained on Wednesday when four legislators, two of whom were from the ruling NPP, joined the saffron camp in Delhi. The third MLA, H M Shangpliang, had earlier joined the TMC. The fourth was an independent MLA.
The Bengal chief minister’s nephew and TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee, who is seen as the driving force behind the expansion plan, accompanied Banerjee during the Meghalaya tour.
After the TMC defeated the BJP in the Bengal assembly polls last year, Abhishek renewed the contract with the Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC), the company launched by election strategist Prashant Kishor, till the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Kishor has left I-Pac but his team is working for the TMC in Meghalaya.
“I-Pac’s main goal is to introduce the TMC to every household in Meghalaya and tell people that Sangma represents our party,” a senior TMC leader said on condition of anonymity.
A cross-section of people HT talked to felt that under Sangma’s leadership, the TMC has an advantage mainly because the ruling alliance partners have decided to contest separately, not as allies. Also, there is a feeling of disillusionment regarding chief minister Conrad Sangma’s administration.
Allantry Franklin Dkhar, vice-president of the United Democratic Party (UDP), a partner in Meghalaya’s coalition government, said: “The TMC is not in a position to win the polls on its own but it has apparently gained some popularity.”
Dr. A Narzary, a medical practitioner, said: “The TMC has a good chance of forming a coalition government if it wins around 15 of the 60 seats on its own.”
Abhishek Das, a Shillong-based lawyer, feels that necessities of the common people might get priority if the TMC comes to power.
“The TMC will give priority to citizens. I also expect it to focus on security and rule of law. Mukul Sangma had put this very aptly in one of his recent speeches.”
Biangtimai Darla, a school teacher, said: “TMC leaders are putting in a lot of hard work. It is commendable. They have been consistently helping women and poor people.”