The Congress, which said it had won freedom movement for the country by hitting the streets, has gone back to the drawing board, with its president Sonia Gandhi announcing the launch of ‘Jan Jagran Abhiyan’ where senior party leaders and workers will take to streets to address people’s issues.
While Congress was deliberating its strategy over tea and snacks inside the media room at its headquarters in New Delhi on Tuesday, a little farther away, Trinamool Congress held a press conference and accused Congress of having slipped into a comfort zone, and not being confrontationist.
TMC Rajya Sabha MP Sukhedu Sekhar Roy, who was asked about TMC’s expansion plans, said, “How long can we wait for the Congress? Mamata Bannerjee had on her visit to Delhi a few months told Sonia Gandhi that as a national party the Congress should take the lead, and wake up from its inertia. But now TMC can’t keep on waiting for the Congress. We are a political party and we have every right to expand.”
The Congress meeting chaired by Sonia Gandhi came a day after Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s close aide and former legislator from Uttar Pradesh Lalitesh Tripathi joined the TMC, who is likely to be rewarded with a Rajya Sabha seat. It’s quite possible that the aggressive Tripathi will be the main person for the TMC in Uttar Pradesh.
At Congress’s meeting on the upcoming UP polls, the recent defection was the elephant in the room. While not many were ready to mention the exits, the fact that Samajwadi Party, Aam Aadmi Party and Trinamool Congress were growing at the behist of Congress was not lost.
According to sources, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary made the point that no one can be trusted and that Congress cannot grow if it thinks of others not itself. Chowdhary also said it’s high time the party had a state in charge to stop Mamata Banerjee from making inroads into UP. Jitin Prasada, who was state in charge of West Bengal during polls, has since quit the Congress to join the BJP.
The fact is that while Mamata Bannerjee is ready to give more time to the Congress because of her personal equation with Sonia Gandhi, TMC’s national general secretary Abhishek is clearly a man in a hurry.
Sources say he prevailed upon the party and Mamata that it cannot depend on Congress anymore to unseat the BJP. And this explains why he has made one of the most caustic comments on the Congress recently.
Leaders like Lalitesh Tripathi and Sushmita Dev, who left Congress to join the TMC, mainly due to their frustration with the laidback and armchair style of politics, according to sources. A recent TMC joinee said, “Attacks on us by our opponents are not considered… This is what TMC and Mamata Banerjee is all about. It’s actually a badge of honor. Congress is scared to get hurt, and when you are scared, you can’t win elections.”
Congress won 52 seats in 2019 Lok Sabha elections and was a complete washout in states such as Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh where it had formed a government. In the next Lok Sabha polls, Congress may not do better and can even lose states such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu where it did well this assembly elections.
According to TMC leaders, if anyone decides the PM candidate, it’s the TMC and not the Congress. And TMC has decided that Mamata Banerjee will have to project herself as the PM face against Narendra Modi for the 2024 elections.
Sources also say TMC will over time open up gates for parties such as TRS and Jagan Reddy’s YSR Congress as they would help it build numbers. While these parties, including the Biju Janata Dal may not open their cards yet but TMC hopes that closer to 2024 they may shed their reluctance and come on board.
Meanwhile, senior Congress leaders have clearly been given a task at today’s meeting to ensure they connect with people, and push their movements. But the irony is that a party, which considers itself a march over others, will have to go back to the streets and ape TMC and AAP, which are seen hitting the ground more often than the Congress.