Thursday, Jun 30, 2022

Mamata Banerjee On 2-Day Goa Trip, But Not On 'Vacation' As TMC Pitches For 'Gonychi Navi Sakal'

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's visit comes as the TMC appoints former Goa chief minister Luizinho Faleiro as a national vice president.

Mamata Banerjee to visit Goa on October 28 PTI

West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee is scheduled to visit the western coastal state of Goa on a two-day visit on October 28, a senior leader of the party informed.

This visit coincides with the TMC appointing former Goa chief minister Luizinho Faleiro, an incumbent Congress MLA who recently quit the party and joined the TMC in Kolkata, as the national vice president of the TMC. The announcement was made on Friday.

"As of now, her (Mamata Banerjee) schedule is to reach Goa on 28 and return to Kolkata two days later. Her programme there is not finalised yet but we can say that she will not be vacationing. She hasn't gone on a vacation for many many years," said a senior minister in the Banerjee government who wished not to be identified.

The TMC has decided to contest the Goa assembly elections due next year and has started the process of building its own organisation in the state where they had no political presence until a couple of months ago. The party opened its Twitter account for Goa in June and in September another Twitter account named 'Goenchi Navi Sakal', the TMC's Konkani slogan that means a new dawn for Goa.

While a number of the party's MLAs and MPs from West Bengal have visited Goa to supervise the building of the party organisation, several teams of employees from political strategist Prashant Kishor's organisation, the Indian Political Action Committee, or the I-PAC, are also stationed there, working for the TMC.

A senior leader of the party told Outlook that the TMC is prepared to contest alone, but talks for an alliance are going on with some regional forces, including the Goa Forward Party.

The GFP, founded in 2016, had helped the BJP form the government in the 2017 assembly elections with their tally of 3 MLAs but has fallen out with the BJP. Notably, former BJP MLA, Kiran Kandolkar, who joined the GFP in 2016 and is at present the working president of the party, had recently compared the Bengal CM with Devi Durga and the BJP with 'asura', or demon.

Since announcing their plan to contest in the 2022 Goa assembly elections a couple of months ago, the TMC has gone on a poaching drive against the Congress in the small coastal state, besides inducting members of the Goan civil society to the party. Konkani actor-director-producer Tony Dias has already joined the TMC, while the party's Rajya Sabha leader Derek O'Brien has met singer Lucky Ali and Congress leader Nafisa Ali.

"You can expect a few more major inductions into the party during Banerjee's visit," said a TMC Lok Sabha MP, on condition of anonymity.

The TMC opened its state unit office in Goa on October 15, and the ceremony was attended by several persons previously from the BJP and the Aam Admi Party who had recently joined the TMC. Only a couple of days ago, more than 200 Congress workers from the Valpoi block unit joined the TMC along with the unit president.

Facing a defection drive from the TMC, the Congress alleged that its initiatives to weaken the Congress are backed by the BJP so that a division in opposition votes helps the Pramod Sawant government in Goa get another tenure.

Soon after the office was opened, chief minister Sawant told the media that he believed Congress was its main opponent in the coming election, following which the TMC said Sawant's statement betrayed the BJP's anxieties over the TMC's entry.