New Delhi: In the run up to the 2021 Assembly elections in West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee’s political “tutor”, Prashant Kishor is facing heat from several senior and mid-level Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders for his “inexperience” and “lack of understanding of the politics of Bengal”.
Several of these TMC leaders have voiced their resentment against Prashant Kishor and his political consultancy firm I-PAC, both privately as well as publicly. They say that Kishor is interfering in the day-to-day working of the TMC and have been sending instructions to leaders from districts about which he and his team do not have any idea.
One of the TMC leaders who spoke to The Sunday Guardian on the condition of anonymity said that Kishor was trying to bring to Bengal an unfamiliar style of politics, which showed his inexperience and lack of understanding of the political dynamics of the state.
“Prashant Kishor has mostly worked in states from the Hindi heartland. He has no idea about what politics is in Bengal. Today if the TMC is a sinking ship, it is because of Kishor and his I-PAC, which is directing TMC leaders to act according to his instructions and whims. As a political person in Bengal having experience of over 20 years, it is painful to take instructions from young people from Kishor’s team with little knowledge about the political situation in Bengal. It seems as if Mamata Didi has left everything to Kishor,” the TMC leader said.
Another district level TMC leader from North Bengal said that Kishor and his team are computer-based technicians who try to manipulate elections and that they have no real grip of the ground level politics of Bengal.
“Bengal is a very different state politically; if he is trying to copy paste his campaigns from what he launched in North India, it is a mistake. He is trying to bring in factors into the political realm of Bengal which do not exist. Such campaigns and ideas sound very interesting, but one needs to understand that Bengal is a politically aware state. For example, Kishor is trying to now bring in the Bengali pride campaign for Mamata Banerjee. By doing this, he is dividing the Bengali speaking and the non-Bengali speaking population; this will be counter-productive for the elections,” said the TMC leader quoted earlier.
Several other TMC leaders and MLAs have publicly voiced their criticism of Kishor and his political consulting firm I-PAC. Some of the leaders include Bubai Kar, who is the joint secretary of TMC’s Jalpaiguri district in North Bengal, an MLA from Cooch Behar’s Sitai Assembly segment and Niamat Sheikh, MLA from Murshidabad. They have all expressed their unhappiness with Kishor.
Another MLA from Cooch Behar, Mihir Goswami, who had recently taken to social media to express his unhappiness over the TMC and its changed style of functioning, quit the party earlier this week. He had said, “It now seems that Mamata Banerjee no more has control over the TMC and that it is no more Mamata didi’s party.”
Goswami quit the TMC earlier this week and joined the BJP. Prashant Kishor has also caused wide differences between Mamata Banerjee and her trusted lieutenant Suvendu Adhikari which many say has reached a point of no return.
However, a TMC leader from Bengal, who is in support of Kishor, says that leaders are miffed with Kishor because he has exposed the corruption at the lower rung of the party and that he is committed to stop the corruption and project a clean image of the party before the elections.
Kishor and his political consulting firm I-PAC was roped in by Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee soon after the results of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, where the TMC won just 22 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats, 12 fewer from the 2014 polls, whereas the BJP which had won just one Lok Sabha seat in 2014 won 18 in 2019.
I-PAC and Kishor were brought to Bengal to help revive the TMC and ensure the party regained its lost ground. A meeting between Kishor and Mamata Banerjee was arranged at the state secretariat, after which Kishor’s appointment into Bengal politics to look after the TMC’s affairs was finalised.
However, ever since Kishor entered the political realm of the TMC in Bengal, he has launched two “big” campaigns for Mamata Banerjee—one “Didi Ke Bolo” (tell Didi) and the other “Banglar Gorbo Mamata” (Bengal’s pride Mamata).
Both campaigns, according to some senior TMC leaders, have not been a huge success as was initially thought, since they say that the “Didi Ke Bolo” campaign brought to the fore the widespread corruption at the grassroots by TMC workers and that had miffed many TMC foot soldiers.
“People were expecting to speak to Mamata Didi directly, but what Didi Ke Bolo did was that complaints were just recorded and whether those complaints were addressed or not, no one came to know about that. But, on the other hand, Didi Ke Bolo miffed the grassroots workers who were now facing the wrath of the common man daily and this has alienated TMC workers from the party at many booths. The other campaign, ‘Banglar Gorbo Mamata’ could not be completed due to the pandemic, but even that did not receive much enthusiasm among the MLAs and local leaders who were supposed to go and stay at villages and explain the good work done by the Mamata Banerjee government,” a senior TMC leader from Bengal told this correspondent.
Despite this, Prashant Kishor’s I-PAC is soon going to launch another outreach campaign for Banerjee and her TMC, called “Bangodhwani” from the first week of December, where the aim would be to reach out to people across all the 79,000 booths in Bengal and highlight the achievements of the TMC and Mamata Banerjee government. It would also include a door-to-door campaign where workers would listen to the grievances of the people and will try to address them.