THEY came to witness a revolt but were disillusioned: Mamata Banerjee's announcement on August 9 that she was setting up the "Trinamul Congress Committee" brought her support base down to earth. People expected her to take the bulls (read Somen and Co) by their horns, not go for such divisionist tactics. Having raised expectations, the iron lady's decision to form a pressure group within the party was a letdown.
So what has she achieved? For starters, nothing. She wanted, never mind her fiery anti-establishment announcements, a rapprochement with honour within the party. Party president Sitaram Kesri did not yield. He did not respond to her letter, seeking some official recognition, days prior to the plenary session. Kesri did not budge after August 9 either. He told newsmen that he did not contemplate any action against her since she had not left the party fold, underscoring her unstated desire for being accommodated.
"It is all up to the AICC now, I really have nothing to say about the new grouping," spewed Somen Mitra, state party chief. "The only point I want to make is that she is not really fighting the CPI(M) as she claims," he added.
Observers agreed. Mamata, as well as other speakers, including Ajit Panja, MP, MLAs Pankaj Banerjee and Sadhan Pandey, spat venom against Mitra and the central party leadership. Reference to the CPI(M) or the Left Front "misrule" was only token.
Other Congress sources say Mamata's options are limited. Few Congress leaders who floated regional parties have met with success: the Bangla Congress (set up by the late Ajoy Mukherjee) or the Rashtriya Congress set up by Pranab Mukherjee faded. But Mamata is popular and the large crowd at her rally should be a cause for concern both to the Congress and the CPI(M).
Mamata did not refer once to the BJP, which had expressed an active interest in her, and announced that her party would have its own student, youth, women and sports cell. A perceptive assessment of Mamata's revolt came from one observer: if she found the atmosphere of the state Congress irksome, she could have opted for a worse form of self-imprisonment. "For all her political talent and sincerity, she remains indisciplined and unpredictable. As self-appointed president, she may find her style too cramped for comfort..."