By Amitava Mukherjee There is now a distinct possibility that the Trinamool Congress (TMC) may be engulfed by an internecine struggle as Mamata Banerjee, the party supremo, has been trying to distance herself from the leaders who have been accused of taking money by the Narada sting operation.
This is in spite of the fact that quite a few opinion surveys have predicted a TMC win in the West Bengal assembly election, four phases of which have been held and two remain.
In a word, Mamata Banerjee is now between the devil and the deep blue sea. She is now locked in a keen contest with Chandra Kumar Bose of the BJP and Deepa Das Munshi of the Congress in Bhowanipore constituency and if poll watchers are right, then the situation is really tough for her. That Banerjee has now been singing a different tune is out of an urge to convince the Bhowanipore electorate that there is a difference between her and the allegedly 'tainted' leaders.
The Trinamool supremo became so desperate that at a public meeting she said that she would not have given nominations to the 'tainted' persons had she known about the incident earlier. It was her argument that substitution of candidates was not possible at this late hour. Her comments were also posted on Trinamul's website to convince the media and political pundits outside West Bengal.
This, however, evoked furious reactions from some of her colleagues. While MPs like Saugata Roy and Kakali Ghosh Dastidar chose to be mum, Subrata Mukherjee is known to have talked to Banerjee on the phone immediately thereafter. Although Mukherjee publicly said that he would not utter a word even in the event of more dangerous words from Banerjee, it is reliably learnt that he had expressed hopelessness in his telephonic talks with the TMC chief and said that there is no point in fighting the elections after such open censure.
Similar was the attitude of Subhendu Adhikary, the TMC candidate from Nandigram.
The confusion within the Trinamool Congress has now reached such a stage that a significant section of it is now busy figuring out the attitude of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi after the election. This section of the TMC is taking heart from the fact that he has not attacked the Trinamool Congress the way his mother Sonia Gandhi has done in election meetings. This section of the TMC has already started making moves to wean the Congress or a significant section of it away from the Left parties after the elections.
Although Banerjee is trying to present a brave face in her election meetings, yet a majority of her party's second or third level leadership feels that the TMC might just scrape through in this year's election or it might even fall short of the absolute majority mark.
In such a scenario the 17 percent votes which the BJP could garner in West Bengal in the last parliamentary election has become extremely important. After the Saradha scam and the Narada sting operation, there is very little possibility that any significant portion of it will get transferred to the TMC kitty.
Banerjee is now paying the price for not building up her party organization in a professional manner. It is reliably learnt that she was seriously considering action against some of those who were seen taking money in the Narada exposure. But a senior party leader, perhaps next to Banerjee herself in hierarchical order, prevailed upon the Trinamul supremo against taking punitive measures.
Banerjee again dithered and backtracked, doing incalculable damage to the Trinamool's reputation.
Inside the party, MPs Sugato Bose and Dinesh Trivedi were vociferous against the 'tainted' leaders. It is unfortunate that both of them have been sidelined and are not seen anywhere near the electioneering process in their respective parliamentary constituencies.
Then, there is the curious case of Mathew Samuel, who claimed to be the "managing director" of "Impex Corporation" and offered bribes to Trinamool Congress leaders in return for political favours. When it blew up in the open, Samuel claimed it was a hoax.
A few days ago, his lawyer had argued in the Calcutta High Court that Samuel did not feel it safe to come to Kolkata in person for attending court proceedings. But he surfaced at a press conference on April 22. What really happened in the intervening time that he could attend the press conference in Kolkata without any security cover?
Interestingly the media in Kolkata is now rife with rumours about one Amitava Majumder, a one-time close confidant of Mukul Roy, a powerful TMC leader. Roy was once reported to be exploring the possibility of floating a new political party whose front man would have been this man. Now, this Amitava Majumder is a leading light of an organization named the Bengal Study Circle which invited Samuel to the press conference in Kolkata.
So much of churning inside the party in the midst of the election process may not be good for the Trinamool Congress.