first_imgOn the last Thursday of May, a week after the general election results, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee made a confession in public.“Till today,” she said, “I have not allowed the Trinamool Congress (TMC) to run the trade unions properly so that industry can function…Now I will strengthen the unions.” She referred to her welfare and conditional cash transfer schemes, four dozen in number, and made a similar argument, admitting that she did not dedicate enough time to her organisation, founded in 1998. Her associates argue that she made a mistake as all her problems stem from the issue of fractured organisation.A district magistrate (DM), who is close to the Chief Minister, told The Hindu that weakening the party to enhance the government’s performance “could be a mistake”.“The CPI(M) channelised services through local committees or gram panchayats (GPs), underscoring the party’s relevance in the daily life. In the TMC’s case, the administration replaced the party. Today, a person does not need to make rounds of party offices to avail of conditional cash transfer (and other) schemes. He can meet government officials who coordinate the disbursal,” the DM said. This massively improved service delivery, indicated impartial international agencies like the United Nations, but weakened the party.Mamtaz Begum, a dedicated TMC activist, explained how and why efficient delivery of freebies weakened the party.“The benefits are not delivered by the GP members who are affiliated to the party and marshal the elections, but by adhikariks [government officials] who do not organise elections for the party,” said Ms Begum, the TMC chief of Nayarhat GP in Cooch Behar district. The 49-year-old activist argued that when a government official hands over benefits, voters tend to feel that it is a government project and they have “an unconditioned right” to receive it.‘A mistake’“How would a party benefit from that,” she said. Besides, “extending all facilities to all indiscriminately was a mistake”.“Everyone feels that even if they do not vote (for the TMC) they would be able to avail of the benefits and we politicians proved powerless,” Ms. Begum argued. She refused to accept that the fear of corruption compelled Ms. Banerjee to implement schemes through officials. “If you cook fish at home, cats will come. Will you stop cooking fish?” she asked. With the weakening of the organisation, three problems surfaced. One, the party management’s links with the grassroots weakened. As a result, the party, at the village or ward level, deeply became lumpen. The case of a political science professor in south Kolkata illustrates the point.A week before the election, a TMC councillor publicly “threatened” the professor in Jadavpur area, right outside his residence, for appearing on television talk shows. He told the professor, formerly with the CPI(M), that he should stop criticising the TMC on television channels as “he knows nothing about Bengal” and his family’s votes – 13 altogether– should go to the TMC. In the end, all the votes, barring the professor’s, went to the BJP, only to deepen the TMC crisis. “If they can threaten in Kolkata, imagine what they must have done in villages,” the professor said.Secondly, at the macro level, the TMC filed cases after cases against CPI(M) activists, even allegedly killing many, creating a vacuum, which is filled up by the BJP.According to a recent CPI(M) data, between May 2011 and May 2019, as many as 213 Left Front supporters were killed. While the claim cannot be independently verified, a TMC MP told The Hindu — even before the elections — that “decimation” of the CPI(M) is what the TMC fears in the 2019 election. Thirdly, the TMC’s use of brute force, being uncertain of its organisational might, in the 2018 panchayat polls severely harmed the party. These and all other problems, however, stems from collapse of the organisation, Ms Banerjee founded.last_img