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TMC eyes pivotal role in 2024, and the BJP hopes to make comeback after dismal 2023

The TMC's successful campaign translated into a sweeping victory in West Bengal's rural polls, securing all 20 Zila Parishads in the three-tier panchayat system and winning 880 seats out of 928. The BJP secured 31 seats, while the Congress-Left Front alliance won 15 seats, with the remaining two going to others.

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tmc, trinamool congress, west bengal, mamata banerjee

Despite losing national party status, the Trinamool Congress remains a dominant political force in West Bengal, buoyed by a triumphant victory in the violence-marred rural polls and aiming to play a pivotal role in the national opposition alliance—India—ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Conversely, the BJP faced an exodus and electoral setbacks in 2023. The state leadership grappled with maintaining internal cohesion while attempting to capitalise on allegations, including graft charges against the Mamata Banerjee government.

The TMC aspires to uphold its political dominance in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, actively contributing to forging a formidable opposition in the run up to the parliamentary elections.

Simultaneously, the BJP, known for its strict control over dissidents, is placing its hopes on rural areas to stage a turnaround and mobilise its cadre base to maintain unity.

The erstwhile mighty CPI(M)-led Left Front, having lost its main opposition status to the saffron camp in recent years, has exhibited signs of recovery in bypolls and panchayat polls.

Despite a disappointing start to the electoral year, losing the minority-dominated Sagardighi seat to Congress-Left Front alliance, the party also relinquished its national party status due to lacklustre performances in various elections.

The withdrawal of national party status resulted from the TMC’s unsuccessful attempt to expand nationally and act as the linchpin of an opposition alliance against the BJP, culminating in its poor showing in Goa assembly polls and the civic election debacle in Tripura in December 2021.

Efforts to rectify the Sagardighi defeat included the induction of a Congress MLA into the party, accompanied by significant organisational restructuring at the grassroots level.

In emulation of the Congress’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, the TMC launched a mass outreach campaign, ‘Trinamool ey Nabajowar’ (new wave in Trinamool). Abhishek Banerjee, nephew of TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, and considered the party’s de facto number two, led the campaign.

The TMC’s successful campaign translated into a sweeping victory in West Bengal’s rural polls, securing all 20 Zila Parishads in the three-tier panchayat system and winning 880 seats out of 928. The BJP secured 31 seats, while the Congress-Left Front alliance won 15 seats, with the remaining two going to others.

Buoyed by this success, the TMC assumed a leading role in forming the INDIA opposition alliance, comprising 28 anti-BJP parties across the country.

Despite these victories, challenges loom for Bengal’s ruling party, as its proposals for a swift seat-sharing deal, common manifesto, and narrative are yet to resonate among allies.

Even the proposal to nominate Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge as the opposition bloc’s PM candidate was turned down.

The withholding of MGNREGA dues by the Centre escalated into a major political issue in the state, leading to protests by Abhishek, along with TMC MLAs, MPs, ministers, and MGNREGA workers at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, followed by a five-day sit-in outside Raj Bhavan.

The TMC leadership faced additional challenges with CBI and ED probes into various scams, resulting in battles fought both inside courtrooms and on the streets. The arrests of the TMC minister and senior leader Jyotipriyo Mullick in a ration distribution scam, added to the party’s woes.

As the party enters the New Year, it aims not only to reclaim Lok Sabha seats lost to the BJP in 2019 but also to strengthen its position in the state and play a pivotal role in the opposition alliance if the BJP falls short of a majority.

After nearly fifteen years, the possibility of a Congress–TMC alliance seems to be on the horizon, with both parties being partners in the INDIA alliance.

TMC leader Sougata Roy expressed confidence in making a ”clean sweep in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and playing a key role in the national opposition front”.

The BJP, targeting 35 out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats from the state, has made fresh attempts to challenge the TMC by hitting the streets, although with nominal success.

Internal rebellion and a verbal duel over an organisational revamp characterized the party’s struggles since the 2021 assembly poll debacle.

Post the formation of the INDIA alliance at the national level, including the TMC, Congress, and CPI(M), the party has managed to arrest the slide in vote share to the Cong-CPI(M) alliance as the main opposition to the TMC.

In the Dhupguri assembly bypoll, the BJP lost to the TMC but retained the second position, unlike previous bypolls where the Cong-CPI(M) alliance replaced it as the main opposition.

”We hope to make a turnaround in the Lok Sabha polls in 2024. Just like 2019, this time too, we will come out with good results,” said BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya.

The Congress, fighting for its existence in Bengal, is divided on the issue of alliance with the TMC. Some favour it on respectable terms, while others hope to continue the ongoing alliance with the Left Front.

The grand old party aims to rejuvenate its cadre base in the state during Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Nyay Yatra, which will pass through West Bengal.

Political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty remarked, ”It has to be seen whether the allegations of corruption have dented TMC’s image or not.” For the BJP, the challenge would be ”to keep its flock together and retain the seats it had won in 2019,” he said. On the administrative front, clashes between Governor C V Ananda Bose and TMC government, involving issues such as university VC appointments, the state’s foundation day, withholding of MGNREGA dues by the Centre, and panchayat poll violence, mirrored past tensions between the government and former Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, currently serving as the Vice-President of India. Santiniketan, where Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore built Visva-Bharati over a century ago, was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in September.

As the year concludes, Rajeev Kumar was appointed the new DGP, for whom CM Mamata Banerjee had staged a dharna in 2019 against CBI’s attempt to question the IPS officer in Saradha chit fund case.

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