Will riding on star-power help TMC in its Goa gambit?

Will riding on star-power help TMC in its Goa gambit?

The Trinamool Congress plans to pack its unit in Goa with celebrities and prominent citizens repeating its electoral strategy that gave the party a handsome dividend in its home state of West Bengal.

The Trinamool Congress plans to pack its unit in Goa with celebrities and prominent citizens repeating its electoral strategy that gave the party a handsome dividend in its home state of West Bengal.

TMC has already roped in Sahitya Akademi awardee poet N Shivdas, Konkani film director and producer Tony Dias, environmentalist Rajendra Shivaji Kakodkar, former Indian footballer Denzil Franco, and boxing champion Lenny Da Gama, into its fold in Goa.

“The party is now in talks with well-known singers Remo Fernandes and Lucky Ali, and also with actor-politician Nafisa Ali,” said senior TMC leader Saugata Roy.

Another TMC MP Derek O’Brien reportedly held meetings with them during his recent tour to the state. “They (trio) may join the party during the forthcoming visit of our leader Mamata Banerjee to the state,” said another senior TMC leader. Banerjee will be in Goa on a two-day tour from October 28, to galvanise the party’s campaign for the next year’s Assembly elections.

Also read: In fight against BJP, Trinamool pitches itself as face of Opposition

Elections to the 40-member Goa Assembly will be held in February-March 2022. The TMC, which had failed to win a single seat in the state contesting in 20 constituencies in the 2012 Assembly elections, is hoping to put up a better show this time, on the strength of the spadework done by political strategist Prashant Kishor’s I-PAC team for the past four months.

The party’s ambition has been further bolstered by induction of some leaders from the Congress, including former Chief Minister Luizinho Faleiro, who reportedly still has considerable influence in the state, particularly in the South Goa district, where Christians constitute 36.21 percent of the total population. The district elects 17 legislators.

The TMC is launching its campaign in the western state on October 25, (Monday) with the catchphrase ‘Goenchi Navi Sakaal’ (Goa’s new Dawn). The campaign will be kick-started by singer-turned-politician and former Union minister Babul Supriyo, who has recently joined the TMC from the BJP, along with Saugata Roy.

“The party’s strategy in Goa is to create a positive buzz by inducting prominent people from different walks of life and to poach other political parties to get leaders and foot soldiers,” a TMC leader said.

The leader pointed out that apart from celebrities, intellectuals, and well-known politicians, several grassroots leaders have been joining the TMC from the Congress, Shiv Sena and other parties.

Former general secretary of the Congress’s women wing Priya Rathod, North Goa Congress Seva Dal chief Ulhas Vaskar and Shiv Sena Block President from Ponda Vinod Borkar, joined the TMC along with their supporters last week.

Also read: Chidambaram comes up with new theory: Whoever wins Goa, wins Delhi

In the past few days, the party has conducted a series of induction programmes across Goa to expand its support base.

Nearly 150 people, including functionaries of other political parties joined the TMC in presence of O’Brien, in the southern city of Sanguem on Saturday (October 23).

On the same day, a similar induction programme was held in another southern town of Navelim, where hosts of local leaders from Congress, BJP and other parties joined the TMC in the presence of Faleiro.

The TMC is also holding parleys with Goa’s smaller regional parties for merger or an alliance, though the party’s national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee had earlier ruled out the possibility of allying with any other party for the Goa Assembly polls.

The talks are almost finalised with the Goa Forward Party (GFP), with which a deal is likely to be struck during Banerjee’s visit to the state, according to TMC sources.

The Goa gambit of the TMC mirrors the roadmap the party had adopted to unseat the CPI (M)-led Left Front government in West Bengal. In fact, since its inception, the TMC has been generously welcoming people from non-political backgrounds to its fold, apart from regularly poaching leaders and activists from other parties.

Some of the early celebrity inductees to the party after it was formed in 1998 were Bengali matinee idols Tapas Paul, Satabdi Roy and Debashree Roy. Even in the last Assembly elections in Bengal held earlier this year, the TMC candidate list was packed with film stars, sportsmen, writers, and former officials.

“Mamata Banerjee’s approach to society is extremely populist. Giving political space to people from other walks of life in her party is the extension of this populist approach. The idea is to create an impression that her party is represented by all sections of society,” said veteran journalist Ranjan Sengupta. “Induction of prominent faces also helps create an immediate connect with the voters,” he added.

But at the same time, Sengupta pointed out that to translate the buzz created by the celebrities into votes, the party would need proper organisational structure at the booth level.

Also read: Congress, down to 4 MLAs in Goa, could lose another legislator

“It is precisely because of this that we have been emphasising on getting grassroots leaders from other parties. Most of those who have joined us from other parties in the past week or so in Goa are block, district and booth-level leaders,” pointed out the TMC leader.

However, not many are convinced that the approach would help the TMC pull off a major surprise in Goa next year.

“Organisations cannot be built overnight,” another political commentator Nirmalya Banerjee said pointing out that even the BJP with all its resources and RSS backing could not do it in West Bengal.

“It would need long-term political programmes or mass movements like the one the TMC had spearheaded against land acquisition in Nandigram and Singur in West Bengal,” Banerjee added.

Echoing Banerjee’s contention Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the TMC’s approach would only please BJP. “The TMC has been constantly poaching our leaders. This will not take them anywhere. It will only help the BJP, by weakening the main opposition party, the Congress,” said Chowdhury.

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