In Tripura, Mamata Banerjee hard sells ‘Bengal model’

Source: mamata-tripura-759
ON TUESDAY, when Mamata Banerjee sounded the clarion call for the 2018 Tripura elections, her rally was at once familiar and unfamiliar. While her speech was peppered with references to her government’s achievements in West Bengal — what Trinamool Congress has deemed the ‘Bengal model’ — the rally also marked her return as the firebrand Opposition leader.
Mamata declared that for her party, the fact that the rally is being held in Agartala on the anniversary of the Quit India Movement, was not accidental. “Usually, I go to Midnapore. But this time, I am here. It is because we are starting a new movement in Tripura today — independence from the communists. There is no space for them in India,” she said.
The underlying thread throughout her speech was not merely her relentless criticism of the Left Front government in Tripura, but its juxtaposition with her government’s achievements in Bengal. While alleging that the Left in Tripura has failed to provide jobs, she invoked the pension schemes in Bengal and claimed her government has given jobs to thousands. Claiming that people of Tripura still needed to travel to Kolkata in order to treat major ailments, Mamata spoke about her government setting up multi-specialty hospitals in Bengal.

When CPM was defeated in Bengal, it was found that it had left a huge debt which Trinamool was clearing now, she said. “But we are distributing rice at Rs 2 per kg, giving stipends to girls and students, creating livelihood amenities for the poor and have constructed 41 super-speciality hospitals in the last five years. What has the CPM done here? There is no job, no work, no agricultural facilities, no university and no teacher. There is only loot, conspiracy, false assurance and no justice…” Mamata claimed.
She added that while CPM was boasting that it had brought rail to Agartala, in reality, the project had been sanctioned “when I was the union minister for Railways in 2010.” She also raked up corruption charges against Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar.
“No party from Delhi will understand Tripura or Bengal. The problems here are different. All they understand is ‘Dilli ka ladoo’ and Delhi’s politics… The West Bengal government will be with Tripura and aid the state in its development. If we are elected, we will bring about industry, jobs, employment, education and medicine,” she said while floating a ‘Bengal model’ of development, which will be sensitive to the unique needs of Tripura.
Introducing Mamata to the audience was dissident Congress leader Sudip Ray Burman, the son of former Tripura CM Samir Ranjan Burman, who prior to 1988 had campaigned alongside the Bengal CM.
Mamata began with a reference to her days as a Youth Congress leader, campaigning against the Left regime in Tripura prior to the 1988 Assembly elections that Congress coming to power in the state. “I am not a stranger to Tripura. I had campaigned here extensively when Santosh da (Santosh Mohan Dev) had asked me to come here. Today, those who had campaigned with me are sitting on the stage,” she said.
“Earlier, the Congress had extended its friendship to the Left in Delhi… that is how the Left formed a government here and I realised that I needed to leave Congress. Now, they have again done the same in Bengal and they have realised that they needed to join me,” she added.
Watch Video: What’s making newsMamata’s rally was planned after Trinamool emerged as the majority Opposition party in Tripura, when six dissident Congress MLAs joined the party in June. This, Mamata, said was the beginning of creating a “collective team” to oppose the CPM in Tripura. “Without such a team, there is no point,” she said.
She also criticised the BJP — which in the last five years has made inroads into Tripura — claiming that the party was only concerned with “spreading hatred and communal strife”.
“What do they do? They can’t even pass the GST Bill without our help. During elections, they will suddenly start chanting ‘Hare Rama, Hare Krishna’ to try and spread communalism. Since we have spoken out against them, about how they are undermining the federal structure, they try and intimidate us with their agencies. But we don’t fear them. We have stared into the guns held by the communists in Bengal. The BJP can’t stare us down,” Mamata said.
But in spite of Trinamool’s exuberance, the path to the 2018 elections would not be easy. While explaining the noticeably empty patches in the rally ground, Mamata alleged that the Left “had prevented people from attending the event” and “cut power in villages to stop them from seeing her”.
Trinamool insiders, however, said the party’s lack of an organisation in Tripura would pose the biggest challenge. “There were already four Trinamool Congress factions in Tripura. Now, with Congress leaders joining, there is a fifth one. A lot will depend on Mukul Roy, who has been tasked with fixing the organisational structure in Tripura. If he can’t do it, it will effectively help CPM, with Trinamool only cutting into BJP’s votes.”


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