by Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury


After a continuous eight years long winning run at all polls in Bengal, Mamata Banerjee led Trinamool Congress has faced its first big challenge in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls where its MP seats reduced from 34 to 22 in spite of 4% increase in vote-share. And for the first time a possible non TMC government in Bengal in the 2021 Assembly elections is being discussed, under BJP’s stewardship. But all is not over for TMC at all. It just needs to ensure the following ten steps to return to power a third time in Bengal, which all secular forces do also want.

First, stop panicking: from Didi to the local cadre. Your votes have just increased from 39% to 43.5% and you still have 22 Lok Sabha MPs (fourth largest party) and more than 75% of the MLAs’ support. Analyse why BJP’s vote-share drastically rising and take remedial measures therein, and not react with panic. BJP is creating an image trap for you as a party and leader of instability, violence-prone, juvenile et al, and you are walking right into their trap.

Second, BJP has risen because Left has crumbled and its 22% vote-share has come down to 6%, and Congress also lost above 7% votes. While some Muslim votes of Left and Congress have decidedly migrated to TMC, rest huge majority, who are Hindus, have voted for BJP. So, ensure that all false cases against Left and Congress cadres are withdrawn, compensation given wherever their property were burnt, return their several rural offices taken over by the TMC, and let them do their politics peacefully and as aggressively as possible, against BJP and you. That helps you. Every Hindu vote to Congress or Left is one vote less to BJP.


Third, TMC and Cong should enter into a formal or informal alliance as Cong still has some support base in pockets and mainly among Muslim strong districts of Murshidabad, Malda, Behrampore, Raiganj. Their vote base of Muslims and lower caste Hindus being common, Congress is cutting TMC’s potential strength, and vice versa. Since Mamata is an original Congress-woman and there is virtually no ideological and vote base difference, their coming together is in their mutual interest in the state and in India. At this point of time, Adhir Chowdhury, Congress MP from Behrampore, may be the only bitter Mamata critic, but he can cajoled or coerced by Congress High Command. Even if he shifts to BJP, hypothetically, it would be still a much bigger gain for TMC and Congress if they unite or make an alliance.

Fourth, Mamata & TMC have to totally stop responding aggressively to Jai Shree Ram slogans and use Jai Hind Jai Bangla as much as possible. Rather than juvenile angry ways, they must keep repeating Ram is a God, why drag him in politics. Let us rather hail our nation, our state. Jai Hind. Jai Bangla. That’s secular politics too, and acceptable to both Hindus and Muslims. Detaining sloganeering or cartooning people has put Mamata’s image in a quandary and shifting the attention to non-issues.

Fifth, the role and importance of Abhsihek Banerjee, Mamata’s nephew, has to be reduced and grievances within TMC, being exploited by Mukul Roy, needs to plugged. Exodus of TMC leaders locally to BJP needs to be reversed. That can be done only by reducing family influences of the top few TMC leaders within the party, and through dialogue lower down the line and showing how TMC can win third time in Bengal. Politicians of all hues want to ride the winning tide, and just now BJP is made larger than life for real and virtual reasons. In this context, it is to be noted creating two mass fronts (Jai Hind Vahini and Banga Janani Vahini) as declared by Mamata is fine, but they must have a longer vision and with selfless cadre at grassroots having clear objectives. This must not be construed as a kneejerk reaction. Seva Dal of Congress during the freedom struggle is the right model. It is tough for TMC to ensure this though. Family of Mamata and other leaders should not be in these organizational leadership.

Sixth, since TMC lacks media faces acutely, there is the urgent need for a thorough training of at least 25 party spokesmen in multiple languages and handling multiple types of media. Unfortunately, TMC leadership has recently issued a gag order on all except 8 MPs as official spokespersons. Indian media in general, and Bengal media in particular, cannot be managed by half a dozen spokespersons only. And the party needs to also start identifying their best bets in each assembly seat as candidates from now on, and finalize a name by January 2020 for sure to allow the candidates to have several rounds of door to door campaign, develop constituency-specific manifestos, be known to every voter if possible, and be a part of major social activities therein. This will also quell the now-famous internal dissensions within TMC, keeping the promise of other elected positions in local self governing bodies to other competing expecting local leaders.


Seventh, inundated with a negative image of the party and the government in the light of the Lok Sabha results and consequent adversial media coverage, there is an immediate need for a positive image campaign for TMC and its government. The government campaign can be with testimonials and faces of 2 to 3 beneficiaries of TMC govt schemes like Sabuj Sathi, Kanyashree, Swasthomitro etc in each poster along with Mamata, and this needs to be started soon, which is not anti BJP but pro TMC governance campaign. The success in quelling Maoist insurgency in Jangal Mahal and Gorkha violence in the hills is also a part of this campaign. The rise in State GDP, the inflow of FDI, expansion of start-ups in SME sector, complete makeover of Kolkata and some small cities like Siliguri, Durgapur et al need to be retold to the electorate.

Eighth, using cultural personalities of Bengal, a mass campaign of Hindu Muslim syncretic synthetic amicable culture of Bengal needs to be generated with Bango Utsav on strong secular cultural grounds being organized across all district headquarters of Bengal in the ensuing winter. The Durga Puja festival also has a multi religious face in Bengal that needs to be highlighted.

Ninth, to create the right positive governance-focused approach, TMC must also finalize constituency specific manifesto and an all Bengal manifesto consulting many stakeholders. It must communicate the same and from early 2020 onwards, including publicising popular and celebrity or intellectual participation in these exercises. TMC rode to power on the slogan of Paribartan or Change, and it must go back to the same with the Paribartan 2.0.


Tenth and finally, TMC must remember that all other parties in Bengal do not have a known powerful face as their leader. BJP in particular is divided among original BJP led by Rahul Sinha (state vice president), RSS lobby led by Dilip Ghosh (state president) and TMC turn-coats in BJP led by Mukul Roy, and they have a huge internal conflict. For TMC, it is Mamata all the way, and they need not cultivate Abhishek at all, surely not now. Mamata’s image has been earlier that of a kind Didi passionate for Bengal development and a cultured personality who is into art and music, alongside a firebrand aggressive leader who does not compromise in the interest of her people. Go back to this image strongly.