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TMC tweaks constitution for ‘national makeover’, proposes working president as Mamata’s deputy

For the first time since the foundation of the party in 1998, TMC’s constitution is set to be amended. Likely changes include setting up of a 2000-member 'national council'.

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Kolkata: The All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) is in the process of amending its constitution, creating the post of a ‘national working president’ who will assist chairperson Mamata Banerjee and, in her absence, perform all her roles, ThePrint has learnt. 

The party will also have a ‘national council’ of over 2,000 elected and some appointed members, proposed to be the apex policy-making body, according to sources in West Bengal’s ruling party who are privy to the draft constitution. The council will elect the national working president, who will have a tenure of five years, the sources said.

Six national general secretaries will be appointed to look after every facet of the party’s organisation and functioning, the sources added. There are changes envisaged for grassroots membership too.

Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee, the party’s national general secretary and Mamata Banerjee’s nephew, is being seen in party circles as the natural choice for the second most important post, which will be created through amendments to the party constitution.

He has been the second most important person in the TMC for all practical purposes, but his likely election to the working president’s post is expected to blunt criticism about him virtually running the party without a formal mandate.    

It’s the first time since the foundation of the party in 1998 that the TMC’s constitution would be amended to make changes in the organisational structure, which would also lead to “democratisation” in the party, as elections would be held right from district committees to the second most important post. 

As for the top post of chairperson, there is no proposal “so far” to fix a tenure or provide for her election or removal, TMC leaders have told ThePrint. The TMC constitution, as it is, has no mention of the chairperson’s election or tenure.

This makes Mamata Banerjee the life-time chairperson of the Trinamool Congress, although the party constitution doesn’t specify it. If and when Abhishek Banerjee is elected the national working president, it would virtually settle the succession debate, too.     

Trinamool Congress sources said that amendments were being proposed as the party is now eyeing a national role and its constitution has to reflect it. The Trinamool Congress is a national party, technically, but has little footprint outside West Bengal.

The idea now is to make the party “truly national” by expanding its presence across the country, the sources said.    

In November 2021, TMC chairperson and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had chaired the party’s working committee meeting at her Kolkata residence. Leaders who attended the key meeting spoke to the media and announced that the TMC has taken a resolution to amend its constitution. Also present at the meeting was political strategist Prashant Kishor, who is said to be the brain behind the proposed changes.

After its victory in the 2021 West Bengal assembly election, the TMC extended its association with Kishor’s Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) for another five years.

I-PAC is now playing an important role in the architectural changes in TMC’s constitution. 

Through party sources in the know of the proposed amendments, ThePrint has accessed exclusive details of the changes the TMC is looking at incorporating in its constitution, although it is still in its draft stage. 


Also read: Curious case of Bengal ‘sports clubs’ TMC govt backs with Rs 5L aid where little sport happens


TMC to get national council 

For the first time, the TMC is all set to form a national council within the party. The TMC’s proposed national council, it is learnt, will comprise over 2,000 members — a mix of appointed and elected.  

The national council will comprise the party’s parliamentary board, national working committee and the national executive, along with district presidents, state presidents, state departments (comprising sports, culture, professional and intellectual units in the party), state cells and three delegates from each district where the party has a base. The council will have 33 per cent reservation each for women and SC/STs.

The council will be established as the party’s primary national forum, with wide representation from the states the party establishes itself in. The national council of the TMC will aim to provide a comprehensive representation to all states, and executive bodies and associate organisations of the party, sources said. 

Council’s powers & a national working president

The council will become the policy-making body of the TMC. It will oversee if any modification in the constitution is needed, and review every meeting agenda placed before it by the national working committee, along with keeping a record of the proceedings of every meeting.

The national council will be vested with the power to nominate members to the national executive too. 

Additionally, the national council, along with state councils, will be given the power to elect a national working president every five years. The constitution will also have provisions for the removal of the national working president. 

Apart from assisting the party chairperson, the national working president will be the one who steps in if the chairperson, for any unavoidable reason, is unable to function. Additionally, the national working president of the TMC will also be a member of the advisory committee of the party.

6 national general secretaries 

Under the modified constitution, the TMC is all set to get six national general secretaries — a change aimed at streamlining key functions. These national general secretaries will be nominated members. 

The six national general secretaries are going to be in charge of coordination, organisation, communication, frontal, election and office. 

The national general secretary, coordination, will oversee state in-charges, while that for organisation will oversee state presidents, district presidents and block presidents. The national general secretary in charge of communication will look into the TMC’s communication strategy and public outreach.

The national general secretary, frontal, will be in charge of the TMC’s youth, women, student, trade union, kisan, OBC and ST wings. The national general secretary, office, will be the one looking after appointments of various bodies within the party. The one looking after the party’s election management will be the national general secretary, election. 

Currently, the Trinamool has one general secretary at the state level, a post held by West Bengal minister and senior leader Partha Chatterjee. 

In June 2021, the party elevated Trinamool Youth Congress president Abhishek Banerjee as the sole national general secretary of the party, a post created right after the West Bengal elections, when the party witnessed an organisational rejig with an aim to expand nationally.

Membership redefined, price to rise 

In its draft constitution, the TMC mentions two kinds of membership — primary and active. While anyone can become a member of the party, only those who are primary members and inspire 10 more people to join the party will be called “active members” of the TMC. 

Active members will have individual voting rights and the right to hold a party office. In the party’s existing constitution, all grassroots members had the power to vote, but now that is all set to change. 

The TMC is also looking at hiking the membership fee. While the draft suggests a 20-time hike in the fee from Rs 5 to Rs 100, the party leadership will take the final call on the figure. This will be the annual membership fee every individual has to pay to remain a TMC member. 

The constitution also has provisions for digital memberships, keeping in mind the new, tech-savvy generation.

Why change constitution now

Even though the TMC is a recognised ‘national party’, its constitution was limited to requirements for West Bengal, its home base where it has held power since 2011. The party now feels it is necessary to modify its constitution to connect to people beyond Bengal. 

While making the changes, the party has taken pointers from the constitutions of other parties such as the Bharatiya Janata Party, Aam Aadmi Party, Congress, Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India (Marxist). 

A source ThePrint spoke to confirmed the draft constitution has been vetted by a legal team and is likely to be finalised soon. There is no timeline as to when the TMC will be adopting its new constitution, but it’s likely to be sometime soon.

(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)


Also read: At 24, Trinamool Congress eyes national stage


 

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