Kirti Azad, Ashok Tanwar and Pavan Varma say that the Trinamool Congress has a strategic pan-India plan for 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
New Delhi: Following the victory of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the West Bengal Assembly elections for the third time, the party is expanding itself in different parts of the country with the vision of pushing Mamata Banerjee as the Prime Ministerial candidate of the “United Opposition” for 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
The TMC supremo and Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, during her visit to Delhi earlier this week, had inducted two former Congress leaders and one JDU leader into her party fold. The TMC has also been able to successfully induct about 12 out of the 17 Congress MLAs in Meghalaya.
The Sunday Guardian spoke to the two former Congress leaders—Kirti Azad from Bihar and Ashok Tanwar from Haryana—and Pavan Varma from the JDU who joined the TMC earlier this week in New Delhi, in the presence of Mamata Banerjee. All the three new inductees into the TMC equivocally said that they see Mamata Banerjee as the most formidable leader to be the Prime Ministerial candidate for 2024 elections and that the Congress currently lacks a “charismatic” leadership which has led to the downfall of the Congress across the country. They also said that the TMC has a larger strategic pan India plan in place to take on the ruling BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
A cricketer-turned-politician, he had been an MP from Dharbhanga in Bihar thrice. In 2014, he contested on a BJP ticket and won the elections. He was later suspended from the BJP for openly targeting former Union Minister Arun Jaitley. He then joined the Congress and now earlier this week the TMC. Excerpts from his conversation with The Sunday Guardian:
Q: What were the reasons behind you joining the TMC?
A: You look up to a leader who works for the masses, fights for the rights of the people and goes on to the streets and leads from the front. This is what inspires the cadre and unfortunately, I was not finding that in the Congress. I was sitting in the Congress, idle, for about two-and-a-half years, having asked them to give me some work, but to no avail. Instead, I was humiliated in the Congress, I was feeling like a step child. They were trying to sabotage me. I don’t know why they find my presence so problematic.
On the contrary, you have Mamata didi who leads from the front, who takes the battle to the enemy’s camp. She has been raising all the right issues that affect the common people—the price rise, privatisation of public sector companies and fighting for the cause of the people. Mamata Banerjee has been like the street fighter, taking on the ruling government head on. This is what inspired me to join the TMC.
Q: So, you say that the Congress cannot lead the opposition currently?
A: The grand old party in its earlier avatar is missing now, it lacks that fervour. The Congress lacks a charismatic leader; people don’t connect with them anymore. They (Rahul Gandhi) just give statements and forget after it, that’s not the opposition’s work. One needs to be on the field and work for the people.
Q: What role do you see for yourself in the TMC now? Which states are you likely to work for?
A: I am ready to take up any kind of role that is given to me, whether it is for Bihar or any national role. I have won four elections; I have been in politics for the past 30 years and I have enough experience. Hence, I am basically a man of the organisation. I have been with the public and I can contribute a lot on whatever the party asks from me and I want to work.
Q: You are believed to share a long relationship with Mamata Banerjee, you met her in Delhi, did she plan out anything specific for you?
A: I have known didi (Mamata Banerjee) for a very long time, we share a brother-sister relation. I used to visit her for bhaiphota (bhaidooj) and her mother cooked delicious food and would invite all of us. She knows my family; my sons and we share a family relation with her. As far as any role is concerned, as I said, I have just joined and will play any role given to me. I want to work for the people and I am fortunate enough to work under the tigress.
Former president of the Haryana Pradesh Congress committee and MP from Haryana’s Sirsa, Tanwar was once believed to be sharing a close relation with Rahul Gandhi and had also gone on to become the Youth Congress president. Excerpts from his conversation with The Sunday Guardian:
Q: What were your reasons behind you joining the TMC?
A: The TMC and Mamata didi are the only alternative for the people of this country and I think can challenge the BJP in the 2024 elections. Mamataji is the only leader who is fighting the misrule of the BJP and raising the issues on the streets as well as in Parliament. People are seeing Mamata Banerjee is the most formidable and alternative Opposition leader, especially after her winning the Bengal election for the third time. This is the reason she is going pan India and has made plans to take in people like us from different states to strengthen her party nationally.
Moreover, the Congress has no respect for hard working and loyal people in their party. They do not know how to take everyone along and work for the people. They have sold their morals and no good people can work in the Congress.
Q: But you come from Haryana, the TMC has nothing in Haryana, it is an uncharted territory for the TMC; how do you plan to expand the party in your state?
A: TMC may be new in Haryana, but people of Haryana know about Mamata Banerjee and the TMC. The people of my state know that didi is a fighter and she can take on the BJP. And after all, we are from Haryana and we will make the TMC stand in Haryana. We will start a mass movement against the Congress and the BJP in Haryana, we will start door-to-door campaigns to make people join the TMC and our movement against these two parties and we will deliver 10 out of 10 seats for Mamata didi and the TMC. Let me also tell you that a lot of other Congress leaders are in touch with me, ever since I joined the TMC and all of them are willing to join the TMC.
Q: But then, how will you convince the people of Haryana? TMC is often seen as a regional party, mostly coming from Bengal. Will the non-Bengali speaking population be convinced?
A: You cannot take the help of regionalism to belittle any party. Even Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are Gujaratis, did they not make it to the topmost seats? People don’t buy these arguments; they look for leaders who can talk about their problems and give solutions for them. Mamata didi has exactly those characteristics.
Q: Who convinced you to join the TMC?
A: Mamata Banerjee’s team as well as Prashant Kishor’s team had been in touch with me for quite some time now. Even before the Bengal elections, they were in touch with me and we had been in talks for a very long time. But, I was convinced by Mamataji and her potential to take on the BJP. Despite all the criticism, she won Bengal for the third time and that too with a larger vote share. This is very rare in politics these days.
Former JDU MP and close confidant of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who was suspended from the JDU for openly criticising Kumar and his stand on several issues, Varma joined the TMC earlier this week in the presence of TMC chief Mamata Banerjee in Delhi. Excerpts from his conversation with The Sunday Guardian:
Q: What were the reasons behind you joining the TMC?
A: TMC under the leadership of Mamataji is best poised to become a national opposition in the country. It has the potential and the grassroots experience. In Mamataji, the TMC has a leader who has the resolute stand and the fire in her belly to relentlessly take on the BJP in democratic terms, asking for accountability and answerability on policies and its actions. This convinced me to join the TMC.
Q: What role do you think you would be able to take up or be given in the TMC?
A: It has just been a few days since I joined the TMC. All I can do is that I will be at the disposal of the party and my leader and will play the role as is assigned to me. I cannot say exactly what it is at the moment.
Q: Will the TMC launch a unit in Bihar and contest the Bihar elections?
A: The TMC in its national avatar has a strategic plan for most states in India. This is what I can say for now.
Q: Will projecting Mamata Banerjee as PM candidate for 2024 elections bring all the opposition leaders together?
A: At the moment, we wish to build a robust opposition and a national base. However, no ruling dispensation has a permanent monopoly on power and if that is the case, a strong and effective and credible party from the Opposition can always replace an existing ruling party. And in this case, Mamataji has the credentials to become the Prime Minister.
Q: How will the TMC help counter its regional party tag?
A: The TMC is set to transform itself into a national party with a national footprint. So, while it was a regional party, it is in the process of moving towards becoming a national party.