‘No violence’ to be Mamata Banerjee’s message at party meet to mark year of govt

A year since returning to power with a resounding mandate, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is expected to direct the Trinamool Congress (TMC) to ensure there is no violence in the panchayat elections next year. In 2018, the polls were marred by accusations of booth capturing, rigging, and attacks on the Opposition, and the CM does not want the party’s image to be affected ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.

According to party insiders, Banerjee will issue the direction at a meeting of the TMC’s national working committee on Thursday, May 5, when the party marks one year of the chief minister taking oath for the third straight term. This comes days after Banerjee pulled up the police for not doing enough to prevent recent incidents such as the Birbhum violence and a rape in Nadia district. The Calcutta High Court has handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation the inquiry into the killings in Birbhum’s Bogtui village on March 21. A local TMC leader is among those arrested in connection with the violence.

“Didi does not want any violence in the coming panchayat elections,” a senior Trinamool leader told The Indian Express. “If violence increases, it will hamper not only the panchayat polls but also the party’s image ahead of the Lok Sabha election.”

On Thursday, Banerjee will also relaunch the party’s successful Didi ke Bolo (Talk to Didi) campaign from the TMC’s newly renovated headquarters, which will be inaugurated on Tuesday. She will also hand over benefits of welfare schemes, including her government’s flagship Lakshmir Bhandar initiative, at an event at the Netaji Indoor Stadium in Kolkata.

Banerjee took to Twitter on Monday, a year since the Assembly poll results were declared, to thank the electorate of West Bengal. “I am ever grateful to our Ma, Mati, Manush for having shown to the high and mighty last year on this day the indomitable courage of Bengal … I urge that this day be henceforth called Ma, Mati, Manush Divas. Jai Hind, Jai Bangla,” she said.

Making it clear that the party should start preparing for the general elections, she added, “Our people  showed to the world that there is no bigger a power than the power of people in a democracy. Our commitment to true nation building  should continue, for there are many more battles to be fought together & won together.”

Ahead of the Assembly polls last year, with local TMC leaders in many parts of the state facing corruption allegations, Didi ke Bolo helped the ruling party turn around its public image. But with the party secure in its position in West Bengal at present, and looking to increase its national footprint, why is it relaunching it?

“Last time, Didi ke Bolo helped our party recover from the disastrous result of the Lok Sabha election,” said the senior TMC leader. “This time, we are not in a bad position electorally, but after the Bogtui killings and the Anis Khan murder, if we want to recover, we have to release people’s anger and that can happen through Didi ke Bolo.”

Sources said that using the popular outreach initiative, Banerjee would take stern action against TMC members damaging the party’s image. But expressing scepticism about how effective the CM’s message will be, BJP leader Samik Bhattacharya said, “Violence and TMC are now synonyms. If the chief minister is honestly against violence, then she would take steps to provide justice to the families of 56 BJP workers who have been murdered. But, she introduced the philosophy of jo jeeta wohi sikandar (The one who wins is the king) in her party. Now, even if she wants to minimise violence, it will not happen.”

CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said, “The last five years in West Bengal have been marked by anarchism. The law-and-order situation is now at its nadir. Unemployment is rising, educated unemployed students are out on the streets. We saw how the corporation elections were held and after that how extortion has increased. Mamata Banerjee knows what she will decide, but we knew that people will not take extortion and lawlessness lying down.”

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