Trinamool offers ideological haven for Congress dissenters

TMC’s expansion an ideal political option for opposition leaders

Once identified as part of Rahul Gandhi’s team, former Haryana Congress chief Ashok Tanwar has returned to active electoral politics after a gap of two years, in a new avatar.

After joining the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the presence of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during her visit to Delhi in November, the former Congress leader has set up a party office in Gurugram, one of Haryana’s most developed cities adjoining Delhi, earlier this week.

Like Mr. Tanwar, several Congress leaders, who don’t have much faith in their party’s ability to fight the BJP or don’t see a role for themselves within the Congress fold, are looking towards an ambitious TMC that is seeking to expand its national footprint.

While some former members of Team Rahul like Jyotiraditya Scindia and Jitin Prasada made the switch to the BJP and were made ministers (Mr. Scindia is a Union Cabinet minister and Mr. Prasada is a minister in Uttar Pradesh), there are some who find the “ideological switch” more difficult. For others electoral arithmetic of their State doesn’t allow for such a shift.

“Starting out from Jawaharlal Nehru University to becoming a Member of Parliament, our political training has always been against the BJP,” says Mr Tanwar, whose differences with Bhupinder Singh Hooda led to his exit from the Congress.

“I had offers from several parties but I had chosen to raise issues through Apna Bharat Morcha. But now Trinamool has emerged as the main challenger to the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. and that’s why it was important to strengthen by joining it,” he added.

While the Trinamool has already changed its party constitution to allow senior members outside Bengal to be key office bearers, election strategist Prashant Kishor — advocating a Congress bereft of the leadership of the Gandhis — is reported to be in touch with several Congress leaders who are engaged in factional fights in State units and are weighing their options.

In a Christian majority State like Meghalaya, former Chief Minister Mukul Sangma had limited political options after the Congress appointed his rival and Lok Sabha member from Shillong Vincent H. Pala as the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief.

But a meeting with election strategist Mr. Kishor, who is advising Ms Banerjee, didn’t just change the course for him but also his former party as 12 of 17 Congress MLAs joined the TMC.

Earlier the TMC had succeeded attracting Sushmita Dev, who was not only heading the Mahila Congress but was known to be a close aide of the Gandhis, by offering her a Rajya Sabha berth.

“I thought it through and my conscience is clear: I think I have made no ideological compromise. And I believe that as a very junior politician, what I see emerging nationally, I believe the decision I took that was also a factor,” Ms. Dev told The Hindu in an interview in August.

Former Goa Chief Minister, Luizinho Faleiro, who too was made a Rajya Sabha member and the face of Trinamool for the upcoming Goa Assembly elections, talked about TMC being from the “larger Congress family”.

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