In a pursuit to expand its footprint outside West Bengal, Trinamool Congress is eyeing a “formidable position” in Assam along with Meghalaya and Tripura — the other two states in the northeast. Mamata Banerjee’s party has stepped up its efforts to gain electoral space in BJP-ruled Assam.
The Congress, which is out of power since 2016 in the state, looks like a diminishing force in Assam. Though the grand old party has taken out a state version of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, the campaign has so far failed to galvanise the party workers. Most of the ‘karyakartas’ are still confused about whether the yatra can yield any promising results in the upcoming poll battle or not.
Meanwhile, Banerjee’s party has been arranging meetings across the state to induct new members and spreading the message that the Trinamool is going to be a “formidable force against BJP”.
The gain of Trinamool in Assam will come at a cost to Congress. The top party leadership poached Congress heavyweights for its expansion in the state.
The first big catch was Sushmita Dev. A prominent face in state politics, Dev — the one-time Congress MP and daughter of former party stalwart Santosh Mohan — was the president of the All India Mahila Congress before she dramatically switched sides to join the Trinamool in 2021.
This April, Ripun Bora came on board with Trinamool Congress. He was a state cabinet Minister and former Rajya Sabha MP who led the Congress party in last year’s assembly election in Assam. But, he was more upset with his defeat in the Rajya Sabha polls in March because of alleged cross-voting by members of his party or ally AIUDF (All India United Democratic Front).
Bora soon after that resigned from the party and claimed that he had repeatedly cautioned the Congress leadership about infighting in the state unit.
Trinamool Congress top brass have handed over Bora the party chief post in Assam. His primary work is to aggressively expand the membership of the party in the state.
Mamata Banerjee and Abhishek Banerjee are expecting that within next year the party would look promising enough to field a few candidates in the 2024 Lok Sabha poll in Assam.
The two top leaders of Trinamool Congress in Assam – Sushmita Dev and Ripun Bora – had good grips in the Congress party. Dev’s strength lies in the Bengali-dominated Barak valley region of Assam, while Bora can lure leaders and workers to defect from Congress in upper and lower Assam.
But, for the anti-BJP parties, it will be very tough to build strong opposition by keeping Congress out of the scheme. Though a good number of grassroots workers of the Congress party have shifted their loyalty to the Trinamool in last six months, no other prominent leaders of the grand old party have joined Mamata’s party after Dev and Bora.
As an organisation, the Congress is still way stronger than Trinamool in Assam. This has made the state leadership of Trinamool a bit worried. Though both Dev and Bora are claiming that they want to bring fresh faces into the political spectrum of Assam, however, the fact is Trinamool leaders will pitch for a combined opposition to fight against BJP in 2024.
The Goa election held early this year where the Trinamool Congress and AAP had contested the elections independently might have been the reason behind BJP’s win in the western state.
Trinamool leaders are well aware of that and hence in the public meetings, they are seen attacking Badruddin Ajmal-led All India Democratic Front (AIUDF) along with the BJP while avoiding criticising the Congress party.
Sources say that the Trinamool would look into having pre-poll ties with the Congress and other parties on a few seats for the Lok Sabha polls in Assam where they are confident to put up a strong fight.
Trinamool leaders have said that to stop BJP’s winning run in Assam, all like-minded parties are welcome to a single fold except the Badruddin Ajmal’s AIUDF.