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0 in Tripura, 5 in Meghalaya — TMC tally brings reality check for Mamata’s ‘Mission Delhi’

TMC, which overnight emerged as Meghalaya's principal opposition party in 2021 after Congress defections, secured around 14% votes. Its vote share was less than 1% in Tripura.

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Kolkata: The Trinamool Congress (TMC) has put up its best show in Meghalaya yet, by winning 5 seats in the 60-member assembly. However, alongside its failure to win even one seat in Tripura, the tally doesn’t look good enough to sustain party supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s national aspirations.

While the party secured around 14 per cent votes in Meghalaya, its vote share in Tripura was less than 1 per cent, according to Election Commission data. It contested 56 seats in Meghalaya, and 28 of 60 in Tripura.

Voting for the Meghalaya assembly took place on 27 February, with a voter turnout of 85.17 per cent. Polling for one seat — Sohiong — was postponed following the demise of United Democratic Party (UDP) candidate H.D.R. Lyngdoh on 20 February.

The TMC first set up base in the state in 2012, but contested its maiden Meghalaya assembly election in 2018. It fielded candidates from 8 seats but won none.

After the defection of 12 Congress MLAs in 2021, the TMC became the principal opposition party in the Meghalaya assembly without an electoral fight, prompting Banerjee to launch a high-decibel poll campaign in the northeastern state.

In November 2021, two-term former chief minister Mukul Sangma — along with 11 sitting MLAs — dumped the Congress and joined the TMC. The remaining 5 Congress MLAs joined the National People’s Party (NPP) and the UDP, wiping out the Congress to make the TMC the primary rival of the ruling NPP-led coalition.

The Congress had won 21 seats in 2018, but four of these were lost earlier to a resignation and bypoll losses.

This year, though, the TMC’s final tally was the same as that of the Congress — 5 — which ran a lacklustre campaign that saw Rahul Gandhi visiting Shillong once and other top leaders staying away.

Addressing a media briefing in Kolkata Thursday, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee said: “There was some confusion because Congress said Mamata Banerjee was also in Congress. Earlier, I was in Congress. There is some confusion. We will work it out.”

After Thursday’s results, the TMC failed to retain its position as the principal challenger of the NPP, which has won 26 seats. The UDP became the second largest party, bagging 11 seats.

In 2018, the NPP-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA), came to power with support from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the UDP, and other regional parties. However, all parties decided to go it alone ahead of the assembly polls this year.

In the run-up to the polls, while TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee visited Meghalaya 7 times beginning June 2022, Mamata Banerjee visited the state thrice, with the first of these coming in December 2022, according to data provided by the party.

TMC MP Derek O’Brien and West Bengal minister Manas Ranjan Bhunia had been given charge of the state to garner support for the party and monitor its grassroots reach.

Also Read: Conrad Sangma looks set for 2nd term as Meghalaya CM as NPP emerges single-largest party

‘Put national ambitions on hold’

After the Trinamool’s victory in the 2021 West Bengal assembly election, the party was projected as the BJP’s principal challenger nationally. While the BJP increased its tally in the state, Mamata’s win was seen to have defeated the high-powered campaign unleashed by the former to form its first government in Bengal.

Emboldened by her party’s success, Mamata Banerjee started questioning the Congress’s ability to take on the BJP nationally.

“We have never thought or talked about building a front without the Congress. However, in reality, the Congress has miserably failed in fighting the BJP,” she wrote in a special feature, titled ‘Dillir Dak (The Call of Delhi)’, in party mouthpiece Jago Bangla in 2021.

The first blow came in Tripura where it could manage to clinch only 1 seat during the 2021 civic polls. In the 2022 Goa elections, the party contested 26 seats in an alliance with the the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), but failed to win even one in the 40-member assembly.

It was pinning a lot of hope on the Meghalaya assembly poll results. A strong show in Meghalaya — even as the principal opposition party — was expected to catapult the TMC as a contender for the leadership spot in the opposition camp.

In exit polls, political analysts had predicted a hung assembly for Meghalaya, with a tally of 11 for the TMC.

Terming the Meghalaya elections “complex”, Susmita Sengupta, political science professor at the North-Eastern Hill University in Shillong, told ThePrint that exit polls usually overlook regional parties.

“The UDP has done better than the TMC in Meghalaya. Rallies always don’t translate into votes. The TMC is a new party and Meghalaya has a complex election where tribals play a big role,” she said.

“Moreover, the TMC’s tainted image in West Bengal is well known in Meghalaya. Everyone has seen the scams over the last one year that the TMC has been linked to. So, it isn’t a surprise TMC failed to gain major inroads and has managed a single-digit [score] in the state after being the principal opposition party. With this result, the TMC has to put its national dreams on hold for now,” she added.

Echoing Sengupta’s views that the party needs to work hard to make its presence felt nationally, political analyst Sourjya Bhowmik told ThePrint that the TMC’s performance was no surprise.

“With the numbers in hand, the NPP and the BJP can use money power to buy out the TMC candidates. The TMC is still restricted in West Bengal and, on a day like this, it has also lost the bypoll in Sagardighi, after its MLA’s death, to the Congress. It failed Goa, it failed in Tripura, and now Meghalaya. The TMC needs to re-strategise and go back to the drawing board…,” he said.

However, political analyst Udayan Bandopadhyay said the TMC performed well in Meghalaya. “The TMC should not be disappointed. It’s a national party on paper already. The TMC has made inroads in Meghalaya and if the opposition was united, may be the outcome could have been different.”

(Edited by Anumeha Saxena)

Also Read: Mamata leaves Congress out as she dials Opposition leaders for meeting of non-NDA CMs


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