IN THE LEFT LANE
India Today|September 28, 2020
IN THE LEFT LANE
On August 5, Debesh Das, a minister in the erstwhile Left Front government in West Bengal, received an unexpected phone call.
Romita Datta

On the line was a member of Prashant Kishor’s Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC), the organisation tasked by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) with ensuring its victory in the assembly election scheduled early next year. “They began by praising my work in Entally constituency before getting to the point of the phone call that ‘PK’ would like to meet me. I politely requested them not to disturb me,” says the CPI(M) leader.

Lakshmi Kanta Roy, a former two-term CPI(M) legislator from Dhupguri in Cooch Behar also received feelers from I-PAC recently. The caller, says Roy, expressed admiration for his simple lifestyle, including his tin-roofed home in Jaldhaka and said the TMC needed such politicians to shore up its electoral prospects. “I was promised an assembly election ticket and, eventually, many other things. But I told them not to call me again,” says Roy.

These are not random moves but part of a concerted effort by Kishor to beef up the TMC ranks with strong candidates for the assembly election, where the party faces a serious challenge from the BJP. In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the BJP won 18 of Bengal’s 42 seats, vaulting from two seats in 2014 and finishing just four behind the TMC. If this is any indicator of which way the wind is blowing in Bengal, Mamata Banerjee and her party have a do-or-die battle at hand.

Among the 12 Left politicians approached by the TMC so far are also Banamali Roy, a five-time CPI(M) MLA from Dhupguri, and Mamata Ray, a former legislator from the same constituency. “They introduced themselves on the phone as members of an NGO, the Prashant Kisan Sangstha. It was only when they came over on August 9 that I learnt they were working for Prashant Kishor and the chief minister. They suggested [that if I joined the TMC], my financial problems would be over and I would be able to afford a car and a better house,” claims Mamata Ray, who lives in a modest bamboo-fenced house and moves about in an e-rickshaw.

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September 28, 2020