The TMC leadership had had an inkling of Suvendu Adhikari’s desertion before the assembly election, but the erosion has perhaps started a bit too soon. Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee called an emergency meeting at her Kalighat home today, just after two other leaders of the TMC left, with indications that they would join the BJP too ― as Adhikari would when Home Minister Amit Shah arrives in Kolkata.
A source in the TMC said it would be safe to say that rebel legislators would dominate today’s party meeting.
As Mamata Banerjee has invited Prashant Kishor to the emergency meeting, a section of the TMC is already looking at the meeting as an exercise in futility, as the election strategist is one of the prime reasons for dissent in the party, as veterans complain of being dictated by a bunch of youngsters in the Bihari election manager’s team. At the Kalighat home of the chief minister, however, one would see top leaders like Subrata Bakshi, Abhishek Banerjee and Firhad Hakim.
The Trinamool leader will look for a strategy on how to unite the party during this breakup, said a source.
Meanwhile, Adhikari has hinted in a close circle that 10 more MLAs will leave the Trinamool with him.
The outgoing mayor of Asansol, city administrator and TMC MLA from Pandabeshwar Jitendra Tiwari and former minister of state, Bankura district TMC vice-president Shyamaprasad Mukherjee severed ties with the party on 17 December.
Mamata Banerjee had called from her campaign in north Bengal Asansol Mayor Jitendra Tiwari when he had revolted on 16 December. She urged him “to keep a cool head”, said a party source. Banerjee had told Tiwari she would sort out matters with him on the 18th when she was scheduled to return from the campaign. However, ignoring the chief minister and TMC chief’s plea, Tiwari left the party and vacated all the posts he used to occupy.
This is not the end of the rebellion. Former Burdwan MP Sunil Kumar Mandal may join the BJP too. “The whereabouts of a few more MLAs have made the top leadership suspicious of their intentions. Not only MLAs and MPs but many lower-level leaders are raising their voices out of frustration,” said the source, adding, “There are allegations of neglect and deprivation. This meeting on 18 December afternoon is very important.”
The chief minister says, however, she is reluctant to give importance to the rebels. “Let those who want to go leave,” she has said, putting on an air of abandon. Top TMC leaders are, of course, now echoing the words of their supremo ― at least for public consumption.
Nevertheless, as the number of defectors increases steadily in the face of assembly polls, the party’s top leadership is seeing ominous signs.
This meeting is to decide the tactics of how to prevent the rift by calming the anger in the party. The biggest challenge for the TMC leadership now is to prevent a rupture, rather than dealing with the BJP.