As TMC-Congress rift widens, united opposition becomes distant dream 

With political slugfest between both parties soaring, opposition’s grand dream seems to remain a dream

NEW DELHI | Updated: 28 February, 2023 8:06 pm IST
Abhishek Banerjee and Rahul Gandhi

In a bid to stop the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) juggernaut that has virtually steamrolled them, the opposition parties decided to join hands.

The idea was fraught with fissures from the beginning, with the individual ambitions of the leaders never letting the idea grow.

But the biggest roadblock to the ‘project opposition unity’ appears to be the ever-widening gap between Congress and the Trinamool Congress.

Since the Bengal election in 2021, there has been an undercurrent between the two parties. And it became louder following TMC’s decision to abstain from voting during the vice-presidential election.

In the run-up to the Meghalaya election, on February 22, the already fractured relationship between the parties took a further beating when former Congress president Rahul Gandhi launched a no-holds-barred attack on TMC.

Both TMC and Congress share a bitter history with the picturesque northeastern state, whose capital Shillong was named Scotland of the east by the British.

TMC, looking for expansion, realistically came into being in the state after the 12 MLAs from Congress, including former CM Mukul Sangma, switched their allegiance. It catapulted TMC to the status of the main opposition party – snatching it from Congress. Interestingly, TMC did not contest the 2018 election.

Gandhi’s comment on the “history of TMC”, referring to the scams that key TMC politicians were found to be involved in, understandably riled up TMC as its all-powerful national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee, nephew of party supremo Mamata Banerjee, unleashed his verbal volleys.

Taking a sarcastic jab at Congress and its fading fortunes, Banerjee said, “Irrelevance, incompetence and insecurity have put them (Congress) in a state of delirium.”

Carrying the ‘momentum’ forward, TMC’s mouthpiece, Jago Bangla wrote a scathing editorial that termed Gandhi scion as a “seasonal politician” with an equally pithy headline, Badhojom, which literally means indigestion.

The sharp editorial piece said that instead of attacking the ruling combination of the National Peoples’ Party (NPP) and BJP, Gandhi’s attack on TMC shows “who actually can bring a wind of change in the state known as Abode of Clouds”.

The party mouthpiece further said, “The whole family is tired of ED (Enforcement Directorate) and CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) interrogation.”

“He (Rahul Gandhi) who complains, lost from his own constituency. He is nothing but a seasonal politician. In fact, people outside Bengal want TMC and not Congress, Congress failed to digest it,” the editorial mentioned.

Earlier, while addressing a campaign rally in Meghalaya, Gandhi said, “You know the history of the TMC. You know the violence that takes place in Bengal. You know the scams, the Saradha scam that has taken place. You are aware of their tradition.”

Gandhi also alleged that TMC is actually helping BJP. “They came to Goa and spent huge amounts of money in Goa. The idea was to help the BJP. This is exactly the idea in Meghalaya. The TMC’s idea in Meghalaya is to ensure that the BJP is strengthened and wins,” he added.

Mamata Banerjee’s relationship with the Congress began to deteriorate soon after Banerjee’s first visit to New Delhi after the TMC won the Bengal assembly election.

While both Banerjee and Sonia Gandhi met with all bonhomie, things started to go south from there. With Congress’ fortune taking a beating, many leaders deserted the sinking ship and jumped over to TMC, including some prominent names like Sushmita Dev, Abhijit Banerjee, Mausam Noor and Sangma, among others.

Though the TMC declared that both parties would continue to fight the BJP, things became clear during the monsoon session of parliament when the TMC decided to boycott the vice presidential election.

Incidentally, Mamata Banerjee was instrumental in bringing the opposition together for the Presidential poll that was held earlier.

TMC also skipped Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, though invitations were sent to TMC parliamentary party leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay. An invitation was also sent to West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee by the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, to join the conclusion of the Bharat Jodo Yatra along with 20 other like-minded parties.

Abhishek Banerjee said in late January that he had not received any invitation for the Yatra or the meeting called by Kharge.

Until both parties mend fences, it is unlikely that the opposition’s grand plan to bring all like-minded parties under one umbrella will bear fruit before the 2024 general election.

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