The coming Assembly election in the first two of the three northeastern states – Meghalaya, Tripura, and Nagaland – will prove to be a litmus test for Trinamool Congress, headed by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banrjee.
Trinamool leader and Rajya Sabha member Sushmita Dev said that her party would field candidates in Meghalaya and Tripura and would not contest in Nagaland.
The Trinamool is the first party in Meghalaya to declared their candidates for maximum (52) of the total 60 seats.
Twelve MLAs, led by former Chief Minister Mukul Sangma (2010-2018) who had won in the 2018 Assembly election as Congress nominees, joined the Trinamool in November 2021, making the West Bengal-based party the main opposition in the northeastern state overnight.
However, weeks before the announcement of Assembly elections, two Trinamool MLAs switched loyalties to the ruling National People’s Party (NPP), while another joined the BJP.
With three MLAs leaving the Trinamool, the party’s strength in the Assembly has come down to nine now.
However, Trinamool leaders in Meghalaya claimed that thousands of NPP and other party supporters including some leaders joind their party.
To woo the electorates, the party has promised to roll out the Meghalaya Financial Inclusion for Women Empowerment (MFI WE) scheme that would provide assured monthly income support of Rs 1,000 per woman per household in the state, if the party is voted to power in the forthcoming polls, expected to be held in February end.
The MFI WE, also called ‘WE Card’, was announced by Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee in Shillong on December 13 sparking a controversy in the state.
The BJP has announced to lodge a complaint with the Election Commission against the Trinamool for its promise to implement an income support scheme. Claiming that the ‘WE Card’ scheme failed in West Bengal, the BJP leader accused the Trinamool of making false promises since it does not have any development agenda.
However, state Trinamool Vice President George B. Lyngdoh said that opposing ‘WE Card’ exposes BJP’s anti-poor politics, while claiming that two lakh families have already registered for the scheme.
After the Trinamool was founded in 1998, it had set up bases in Tripura, Manipur, and Assam but they could not maintain the political tempo in these states.
Seven MLAs of other parties once joined the Trinamool but subsequently they quit one by one.
Former Tripura Chief Minister Sudhir Majumder, Tripura Speaker and former Congress leader Ratan Chakraborty, Ashish Saha, Subal Bhowmik, and others went to it in 1998 and most of them returned back to Congress in 2001-2002.
Majumder contested in the West Tripura Lok Sabha constituency in 1999 on a Trinamool ticket and secured second position.
Present lone Congress MLA in Tripura Sudip Roy Barman, six other MLAs and many leaders quit the Congress in 2016 and joined Trinamool but the next year, they joined the Bharatiya Janata Party. Roy Barman, also a former minister, quit the BJP early last year and was re-elected to the Assembly in by-elections as a Congress nominee.
After the Trinamool started its organisational work in the third phase in Tripura in early 2021, it had been searching for a candidate for the party President’s post in the state and finally appointed Subal Bhowmik, a former Congress MLA and BJP leader, in April last year.
But due to internal feud, it removed Bhowmik from the post on August 24 last year and appointed former Tripura Congress President and veteran lawyer Pijush Kanti Biswas in his place on December 11 last year.
On the coming elections, Sushmita Dev claimed that her party would form the government in Meghalaya “mainly because of the allegations against Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance government and also since the Congress is almost “inactive in the state”.
The MDA government has done nothing for the people of Meghalaya, and the Congress, which once ruled the state and was the main opposition party, is now “non-existent” in the hill state, Dev, a former Mahila Congress chief, told IANS.
She alleged that “except for the atrocities and terror” against the Opposition party workers, leaders, and supporters, the BJP also did nothing in Tripura.
“People have also realised that they (BJP) gave false promises before the 2018 Assembly polls,” Dev said. On the prospective Congress-Left alliance in Tripura, she noted that the Congress and Left tie-up did not work in West Bengal and there is factionalism over the alliance.
“If the Congress and CPI-M forge an alliance, there would be further erosion among the Congress rank and file. Grassroots workers of Congress would not accept the Congress-CPI-M alliance as the Left cadres earlier unleashed atrocities on the Congress workers,” she said.
Claiming that the people would not vote for the BJP, Dev said: “Trinamool Congress, therefore, is the only alternative that could form the government after the Assembly elections in Tripura.”
She refused to make any comments about the party’s possible alliance with TIPRA (Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance) headed by former royal scion Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barman.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at email@example.com)