TMC is on a High in Bengal But There's Discontent Brewing in Its Ranks

From Abhishek Banerjee's rise to return of defectors, several factors are driving the discontent within the TMC.

7 min read
Hindi Female

The Trinamool Congress (TMC), is on a political high at the moment – it has recently swept all the seats in the recent by-elections in West Bengal, its main rival – the BJP facing desertions at different levels, and the party is now trying to expand outside West Bengal.

However, there is a flipside to this – a growing sense of discontent within the party.

“The party’s successive electoral wins obscured the growing resentment. But many senior leaders have reservations with the way the party is currently functioning. Most of them are unable to express their views fearing reprisals,” said a senior TMC leader.

The not-so-visible crisis started with the ghar wapsi (return) of senior leader Mukul Roy, who came back to the TMC fold after spending 44 months in the BJP. Soon after, four more BJP lawmakers from Bengal joined the ruling party.

On one hand, with a mass exodus of local-level workers and switching of MLAs, BJP is losing strength in Bengal. On the other hand, loyal TMC workers and local leaders are becoming insecure with the induction of BJP leaders in the party.

The resentment in the party is primarily of two reasons:

  • Centralisation of power around Abhishek Banerjee

  • Re-joining of turncoats from BJP



Trinamool has always been a centralised party with Mamata Banerjee wielding absolute power. However, Banerjee is said to have given space and importance to her favourites who created an invisible circle around her.

Senior ministers like Firhad Hakim, Partha Chatterjee, Aroop Biswas, Amit Mitra, late Subrata Mukherjee, Jyotipriya Mallick and organisation man Subrata Bakshi are some of Banerjee’s well-known loyalists.

However, things changed soon after TMC formed the government for the third consecutive time in May this year. Many of Mamata Banerjee’s close associates found their influence in government and party reduced.

The prized urban development portfolio was taken away from Firhad Hakim and he was given transport and housing. Mallick lost his crucial food and supplies portfolio and was given the charge of forest renewable energy.

After Amit Mitra stepped down as finance minister because of health reasons, the chief minister herself took over the portfolio.

While TMC veteran Partha Chatterjee’s portfolio in the government and position in the party remained fairly the same, his decision-making power has been reduced.

Subrata Bakshi has been the party’s national general secretary. But after the 2021 assembly election, Banerjee’s nephew and two-time MP from Diamond Harbour, Abhishek Banerjee was elevated to Bakshi’s position.

From Abhishek Banerjee's rise to return of defectors, several factors are driving the discontent within the TMC.
Kolkata : Former Union Minister and sitting MP Babul Supriyo joined the Trinamool family today in the presence of National General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee and Rajya Sabha MP Derek O

Soon after the appointment in June, the newly appointed national general secretary charted out his way of functioning. On 16 August, TMC undertook a massive organisational overhaul, and Abhishek’s imprint was clearly visible.

Several heavyweights like Sudip Bandopadhyay, Jyotipriya Mallick, Arup Ray, Soumen Mahapatra and Swapan Debnath and popular names like MPs like Mohua Maitra, Abu Taher, Mausam Noor were dropped as district presidents.

For better organisational functioning, TMC for the first time split 23 administrative districts into 35 organisational district units. The ruling party in Bengal also adopted a ‘one person, one post’ policy, but in many instances, this policy was not followed. Leadership was changed in all eight districts in North Bengal.

The underlying factor in all these changes is that new faces close to Abhishek have been given more responsibilities in the party organisation.

It is safe to say that barring Birbhum’s district president Anubrata Mondal, a staunch Mamata loyalist, many of the in-charges are close to Abhishek. By restructuring the organisation slowly and steadily, Abhishek has established his clout in the party.

“Abhishek was de facto number two in the party, now, he is de jure number two. He successfully cemented his position in the last assembly election. Abhishek is almost solely responsible for organisational work now,” said a senior TMC minister on condition of anonymity.

Abhishek largely stays away from media glare and works from his office in Kolkata’s Camac Street and not from the party head headquarters in Topsia. The 34-year-old leader works with a small but efficient team which doesn’t occupy any party positions but is involved in almost all decision-making processes. Abhishek was instrumental in bringing political strategist Prashant Kishor on board and completely reimagined TMC’s branding, especially on social media.

A TMC youth leader told The Wire, “Abhishek Da took the mantle from our chief minister. He is now the main leader as far as the party’s functioning is concerned. From party appointments to defections, from strategising the party's national ambition to regular functioning, he takes all the calls.”



Since the tail-end of 2020, the state had witnessed a mass exodus of TMC workers, local level leaders, MLAs and MPs to BJP till nominations were announced. But tides turned after 2 May. After TMC’s emphatic win, BJP leader and cadres have been jumping ship almost on a daily basis.

The first acquisition was BJP’s national vice-president and MLA from Krishnanagar Mukul Roy, who returned to TMC just 41 days after the election results.

After welcoming Roy to the party, while answering media questions, Mamata Banerjee said, “More people will come. But those who betrayed our party for money will not be considered. We will take only those who do not spread bitterness.”

Since then four more BJP MLAs—Biswajit Das of Bagda, Tanmay Ghosh of Bishnupur, Soumen Roy, MLA of Kaliaganj and Krishna Kalyani of Raiganj constituency joined TMC.

After Kaliaganj and Raiganj MLAs joined TMC, resentment among the original TMC leaders came into the open. TMC sources said, leaders like Asim Ghosh, Tapan Deb Singha and Arindam Sarkar are being sidelined.

From Abhishek Banerjee's rise to return of defectors, several factors are driving the discontent within the TMC.
File photo of Mamata Banerjee and Mukul Roy. 
(Photo: PTI)

On 14 November, in the presence of minister Ghulam Rabbani, turncoats and leaders from all nine blocks of North Dinajpur district, party’s district president Kanaia Lal Agarwal said, “Don’t keep your ego. Many people from other parties joined TMC. In future, more will come. We all need to work together.”

Hundreds of departures from the saffron party at the lower levels are happening in almost all administrative blocks in the state. The mass exodus resulted in a humiliating defeat of BJP in the recent bypolls in seven constituencies. Not only did the BJP lose all seven assembly segments, the party lost deposits in three of them.

However, despite Banerjee’s assertion that, “Those who betrayed our party for money will not be considered”, it does seem that many of those who had “betrayed” the party, are now being accommodated.

Former Bidhannagar mayor and MLA Sabyasachi Dutta joined BJP right after 2019 Lok Sabha election results. Dutta blatantly attacked the TMC and the chief minister during the 2021 assembly election. He even contested from Bidhannagar but was defeated by state minister Sujit Bose.

Bose publicly expressed his reservations on Dutta's return to the TMC. Even then, on 7 October, Dutta was re-inducted. Dutta and Bose have been arch-rivals since long and they fought bitterly during the election in Bidhannagar.

Veteran TMC leader and MP Sougata Roy had also expressed his displeasure on Dutta’s rejoining and said, “If people who attacked our party and Mamata Banerjee, the people who contested against us just few months return, then it will upset our workers. Sincere workers and party loyalists will be disheartened.”

Since Dutta’s return, clashes between two groups started in Bidhannagar. Recently, Dutta’s close aide Udayan Sarkar filed an FIR against the minister’s son. And Bose loyalist Supriyo Chakraborty, filed a counter FIR against Dutta’s supporters.

Just like Dutta, another high-profile defector from TMC was former minister Rajib Banerjee. Banerjee joined BJP two months before the assembly election and contested from Howrah’s Domjur assembly. He was defeated by TMC Kalyan Ghosh by a margin of over 42,000 votes.

Right after the election results, Banerjee started posting cryptic messages from his social media handles openly supporting TMC. On 31 October, Banerjee was re-inducted into the TMC in the presence of Abhishek Banerjee.

Reacting strongly, senior party leader and three-time MP Kalyan Banerjee said, “I have to accept that the top leadership of the party has included Rajib Banerjee in the party, but Mamta Banerjee had said during a meeting in Domjur that Rajib Banerjee has three-four houses in Gariahat and his transaction is going on in Dubai. But I don't know why such a person was included back in the party. In order to stay in TMC, everyone has to obey the top leadership of the party. Even I have to.”


An MLA from Howrah district, on condition of anonymity, said, “We have to accept the leadership's decision otherwise we will be sidelined. Every single party worker is angry with turncoats' re-induction and their anger is justified.”

Not just were turncoats inducted, they have also been given important positions—Mukul Roy was nominated as the chairman of the public accounts committee (PAC) of the West Bengal assembly. Rajib Banerjee was made party’s Tripura in-charge, where TMC is expanding its organisation, eyeing the 2023 polls.

TMC’s surprise catch was BJP MP and former Union minister Babul Supriyo. Supriyo’s fallout with BJP was triggered when he was dropped from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s council of ministers during the July 2021 reshuffle. On 22 September, Supriyo met Abhishek Banerjee and formally joined TMC.

After joining he said, “I want to be in the playing eleven. Mamata Banerjee and Abhishek Banerjee gave me a fantastic opportunity which I couldn’t decline.”

Supriyo’s joining in TMC has created resentment at various levels in the party’s rank and file. A section of Muslim voters, who heavily sided with TMC in last assembly election, also feel betrayed by Supriyo’s joining.

On Monday, The Telegraph reported that Abhishek Banerjee wants Supriyo as TMC’s mayoral face for the prestigious Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC). Kolkata and Howrah corporations are slated to go on poll in December this year.

“Babul Supriyo has no political capital. I wonder why he was even given a place in the party. As a sitting union minister, he was defeated by over fifty thousand votes in Kolkata. Now, if he is projected as Kolkata’s mayor, it will be a betrayal of the party workers, especially the people of Kolkata,” a senior TMC MLA said.

(Himadri Ghosh is a freelance journalist based in West Bengal. He tweets @onlineghosh. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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