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Mamata Banerjee to meet select TMC leaders amid dissent among section of MLAs

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Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee has called the party’s Parliamentarians and a section of legislators and district leaders for an important meeting at her residence at Kalighat in south Kolkata on Friday, party leaders said Wednesday.

The closed-door meeting is being described by party leaders as crucial in view of the dissent among a section of lawmakers. Some have spoken against the TMC while a few have joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the run up to the assembly polls due in April-May.

The most prominent among those who switched allegiance is former transport minister Suvendu Adhikari. Two more ministers, Rajib Banerjee and Laxmi Ratan Shukla, a former Indian cricketer, have quit the cabinet. Both were elected from Howrah district. Shukla left the TMC as well. A third lawmaker from Howrah, Vaishali Dalmiya, was expelled last week on disciplinary grounds.

Over the past few days, Banerjee made fresh organizational changes in some district units and frontal organisations. Significant among these is the appointment of coordinators for the five assembly constituencies in East Midnapore district, the home turf of Adhikari who joined the BJP on December 19 with six sitting MLAs, the Lok Sabha MP from Burdwan East and around 20 district TMC leaders.

“On January 25, Banerjee appointed coordinators for Tamluk, Panskura East, Kanthi North, Khejuri and Egra assembly segments,” a TMC leader said on condition of anonymity.

“On the same day, she appointed 16 vice-presidents, 25 general secretaries and 15 secretaries for the revamped East Midnapore district committee,” he added.

Although Adhikari’s father Sisir Adhikari has been removed from the post of president of the district committee he and his elder son Dibyendu are still Lok Sabha members from the district. In a bid to counter any move by Adhikari to induct more leaders from the TMC, Banerjee has revamped 30 community block committees as well.

Since Banerjee will contest the Nandigram seat from where Adhikari was elected in 2016, the TMC has started making preparations. Banerjee has asked senior state leader and panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee to camp in Nandigram next month and carry out a survey of the party’s organizational strengths and weaknesses in every community block.

“By convening the meeting at her residence Banerjee has made it clear that she wants to send a message. The party’s most crucial decisions have been taken at her residence. Had she intended to address all leaders she would have called them somewhere else. Her residence does not have the space to accommodate all MLAs and district leaders,” said a TMC MP who has been asked to attend the meeting.

The BJP is also busy making preparations for the month-end visit of Union home minister Amit Shah. He will visit two districts, North 24 Parganas and Howrah, on January 30 and 31.

In North 24 Parganas, Shah will lead a roadshow at Thakurnagar where the headquarters of the Dalit Matua community is located. He will also visit the temple of the Matuas who have demanded implementation of the new citizenship law. BJP’s Shantanu Thakur, a Matua leader, won the Bangaon Lok Sabha seat in 2019, defeating his relative and TMC’s then sitting MP Mamata Bala Thakur. The chief minister has sworn that she will not let the citizenship law be implemented in Bengal.

In Howrah, Shah is scheduled to address a rally at Domjur, the constituency of former forest minister Rajib Banerjee. He has won the seat twice.

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