Even as the sixth and final phase of Assembly elections in West Bengal ended on Thursday, the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) witnessed factionalism even during the polls in many districts across the state.
The Bhangor seat in the South 24-Parganas district witnessed the most prominent displays of factionalism within the TMC, when an expelled CPM leader, Abdur Rezzak Mollah was given a ticket sidelining Arabul Islam, an old TMC hand. Party workers in Bhangor had taken out processions with placards and raised slogans against Rezzak Mollah. For many TMC workers, it was difficult to accept somebody like Rezzak Mollah as their party candidate as they had fought against him politically for many years. According to sources, many TMC workers even abstained from voting for Rezzak Mollah.
A senior TMC leader said on the condition of anonymity: “Rezzak Mollah is a very tall leader and that was the reason the party had given him the ticket. Naturally, this would irk the ground soldiers because they had been fighting against him for a long time. Accepting him was a problem, but the party looks for winability. Differences can be ironed out.” Allegations have been made that Arabul Islam even worked against Mollah.
Factionalism has also been evident in the North 24-Parganas district where there was trouble between several senior leaders including Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Lok Sabha MP from Barasat; Joyti Priya Mallick, the district president and the state food minister; and Sabyasachi Dutta, Bidhannagar mayor. While the “fight” between Dastidar and Mallick was mostly over “control of power”, control over the real estate “syndicates” was the major contention between Dastidar and Dutta. Dutta and his supporters hold sway in the newly booming, real estate zone of Rajarhat, New Town, and have seen several clashes with Dastidar’s supporters over who gains control of the construction sites in the area. According to sources, both leaders want to establish their “power through their own building material syndicates”.
When this correspondent contacted Dutta over telephone for his comments, he refused to speak on the matter, while Dastidar’s telephone went unanswered.
The Bangaon North constituency in North 24-Parganas has also witnessed a long-standing cold war between the Municipal Corporation chairman of Bongaon, Shankar Adhya, who is believed to be close to the district president Jyoti Priya Mallick, and the local MLA, Biswajit Das. The two have often engaged in verbal spats even during many public functions.
A source said, “The two camps here are highly charged. It is mainly because the chairman of this area wants to assert his power in an absolute manner and the local MLA tries to stop him. Since the chairman is very close to the district president, the MLA has to back out and this has annoyed the MLA. The situation here is always tense.”
Even in the urban areas of Kolkata and its suburbs, leaders of the ruling TMC do not share cordial relations. “The souring of relations is mainly because of the ‘syndicate raj’. Everybody wants to become king, but that is not possible. Thus, leaders are getting divided into various factions,” a source said.
In Malda district, the bad vibes between two TMC leaders, Krishnendu Choudhury, a minister, and Sabitri Mitra, MLA are well-known.
Infighting between the party’s mid-level cadre and leaders has become a regular phenomenon in the state.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee even warned party members against factionalism on several occasions.
CPM leader Fuad Halim said told The Sunday Guardian, “Factionalism in TMC is not based on ideological differences, because they do not have an ideology at all. It is rather based on personal agendas. A party that lacks ideology would thus thrive on the members’ agenda.”