Mamata’s divided house

Semi Column

Setbacks at the Centre are just one part of the story. The dents in Mamata Banerjee's clout are now increasingly being dealt from within the party. Worse, several Trinamool Congress members are not just publicly expressing lack of confidence in her leadership but accompanying the same with allegations of growing corruption — a charge that hurts the Trinamool supremo's long-cultivated image of an "incorruptible" leader of the masses.

The first blow ironically came from Singur, the cradle of her land movement. Angry at the Cabinet reshuffle, local MLA Rabindranath Bhattacharya refused to take up his new portfolio and went on to lament the way the Trinamool Congress was being run, with "corruption at various levels". The three-time MLA said no action had been taken on the complaints of corruption in the agriculture department that he held.

The controversy broke at a time when a major scam was unfolding in the Trinamool-run Kolkata Municipal Corporation, involving crores of rupees spent to install lamps as a beautification drive. At the helm of the corporation is a man handpicked by Didi.

Next to speak out was TMC chief whip in the Assembly Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, after he had been severely manhandled by another faction of party workers during a demonstration on Calcutta University campus. A veteran leader known for his unwavering loyalty to Mamata through her political career, he has now become a daily embarrassment for the party on TV channels.

Like Bhattacharya, Chattopadhyay too alleged money play, even "a syndicate raj", with, he claimed, full knowledge of the top leadership.

The Chief Minister has so far chosen not to respond. However, if insiders in the party are to be believed, the ranks of the disgruntled are swelling fast and she will be hard pressed to keep them down for long.

... contd.

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