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Infighting may affect Trinamool marginally in ongoing polls

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Kolkata, April 14 (IANS) Infighting over spoils of office, control of the lucrative construction material businesses and factional feuds between the old guard and new members may adversely hit the chances of West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress in the ongoing Lok Sabha polls, though to a very limited extent, party insiders and analysts say.

While a minister IANS contacted disconnected the call when he was asked about the issue, a middle level Trinamool leader said that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was trying to take advantage of the ruling party’s internal conflicts, especially after Banerjee’s erstwhile second in command Mukul Roy crossed over to the saffron outfit.

However, political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty felt that BJP had smartly stoked the aspirations of a number of Trinamool leaders to take them in their fold.

"Somebody like Arjun Singh wanted to become an MP, but the party did not consider him. So he left. Similarly there are others who may be feeling they are stagnating in their old posts, or maybe, desiring to become ministers. They are leaving the party and joining the BJP," Chakraborty, a professor of political science at the Rabindra Bharati University, said.

A master in engineering defections, Roy was known for bringing leaders and public representatives from other parties to the Trinamool fold for years. He has shown the same skills after joining the BJP, roping in two sitting Trinamool MPs Anupam Hazra and Saumitra Khan, besides a number of other leaders and activists.

He has also weaned away leaders from the Left parties including the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

Also known for his wide contacts across the political spectrum, Roy keeps in touch with a good number of leaders from his former party, often sowing the seed of suspicion in Trinamool ranks.

A case in point was how he dropped into Bidhannagar Mayor and Trinamool lawmaker Sabyasachi Dutta’s house last month to have a meal of ‘luchi’ and ‘aloor dam’. Roy’s visit made Dutta almost a pariah in Trinamool, as the party began monitoring all his movements with great suspicion.

Born from the Congress’ womb, the Trinamool has imbibed the parent party’s factionalism since it came into existence on January 1, 1998. With the passage of time and the party’s rapid expansion that culminated in Trinamool taking over the reins of West Bengal, the bickering has only magnified.

According to Chakraborty, there are at least three or four variants of infighting in the Trinamool.

"The feud between the old guard of the Trinamool and the new faces who crossed over from the CPI-M after the party came to power is quite intense.

"Then there is the fight over the spoils of office, sharing of the cake, that is money. The monetary factor has led to much blood-letting, violence, murder," he said.

"The building construction materials supply business has also led to fierce infighting. The syndicates formed for the supply business have been quite notorious in creating law and order issues," said another analyst, not wishing to be named.

In fact, the infighting became so serious that Trinamool chairperson and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in February publicly cautioned workers to stay away from factional squabbles and carry out their duties in a spirit of unity in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls.

Last year, infighting had cost the party dear as it lost a number of seats in the Junglemahal area (comprising forest stretches of Paschim Medinipur, Purulia, Bankura and parts of Birbhum districts) to the BJP during the Panchayat polls.

After the internal fights came to the surface, the party leadership had deputed a number of heavyweight ministers and party stalwarts to Junglemahal to sort out the problems. At the same time, Banerjee sacked three of her cabinet ministers, apparently holding them responsible for the party’s setbacks.

According to Chakraborty, had there been a party other than the BJP, like a strong CPI-M, it could have exploited the issue to the hilt.

"The problem with the BJP is the percentage of Muslim electors in every constituency. In 28 of the 42 seats in the state, Muslims form 30 per cent or more of the population. And the community has deep distrust for Modi’s BJP. So naturally, whatever advantage BJP could have hoped to get, is nullified to a large extent by the M factor," he said.