TMC rally to go ‘virtual’ on July 21, just 2 hitches

By Anindya BanerjeeKolkata/New Delhi, June 29 (IANS) After ‘Didi ke Bolo’ (Tell Didi) and ‘Banglar Gorbo Mamata’ (Mamata is Bengal’s pride), here comes another likely campaign from the house of Trinamool Congress, in July – ‘Shoja Banglay Bolchhi’ (Speaking in clear terms).However, this campaign which is slated to be launched on July 21, appears to be an ‘inspiration’ from BJP’s high voltage virtual rallies across India. To get a sense of what the TMC leaders feel, Mamata has convened another virtual conference on June 3. However, there are two issues confronting the party.But, first up the event itself. July 21 is the most important day in Banerjee’s political history that it observes amid much fanfare each year as ‘Shahid Divas’ or Martyrs Day to commemorate the 1993 Kolkata firing when 13 people were shot by the West Bengal Police in Kolkata, during a rally by the youth wing of West Bengal Congress under the leadership of a young Mamata Banerjee.The protest rally was in demand of voters’ identity cards to be made the sole required document for voting in a communist Bengal where elections were more often than not rigged. After coming back to power, this day has been the red letter day which was used as political muscle flexing with lakhs attending.However, this year’s coronavirus pandemic and still a ban on public meetings, has changed the ground realities for Banerjee. She is now considering borrowing an alternative idea or two from her arch enemy – the BJP.Now, if TMC sources are to be believed, the party has almost decided to go ahead with a virtual address this year on July 21, where CM Banerjee will use social media platforms like Facebook, Youtube and Periscope to address party cadres.The choice of the speculated campaign ‘Shoja Banglay Bolchhi’, which is likely to be launched on the same day is also tip to be a series of virtual addresses, much akin to BJP’s virtual rallies, which began by Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s address to West Bengal, given the state’s importance in BJP’s scheme of things.A “We are also hearing the same as you have learnt (that this July 21, Mamata Banerjee will address through virtual medium). We will get a clear picture on July 3. Then all the nitty gritty will be discussed,” said senior TMC leader and former Union minister Sishir Adhikari.Though the ‘Shahid Diwas’ event was planned to highlight “Left front’s 34 year of misrule”, this year the address is less likely to centre around the Left as it is likely to focus on the BJP.”Didi (CM Banerjee) is a classic communicator. Her connection with people is beyond doubt. But we will find out more details about the event on July 3, when we will get to interact with her,” repeated another TMC heavyweight, on condition of anonymity. However, he added that the focus of the party is expected to be on the “communal politics of BJP”.All the MPs, MLAs, state ministers and even district presidents central to TMC’s ground work, will be present at this virtual meeting on July 3. Mamata Banerjee is likely to ask them for advice on how to observe July 21, while maintaining social distancing. Though sources say that a decision seems to already have been taken after Prashant Kishor’s I-PAC came up with the idea.However, there are two issue that the TMC is facing – to match the grand scale at which BJP was able to organise Shah’s virtual rally for Bengal and even if they do, they will have to eat their own words of criticism where they accused Shah and BJP of giving precedence to politics over a pandemic or India-China border tensions.At least 15,000 mega LED screens were put up and more than 70,000 smart TVs were installed across the state for connecting with cadres down to the booth level, for Shah’s virtual rallies, IANS learnt. To put things into perspective, West Bengal has an estimated 78,000 polling booths. If TMC wants to indeed go virtual as it seems the case for July 21, they have to match this massive scale of expenditure.Moreover, soon after Shah’s virtual rally, TMC leader and MP Derek O’ Brien hit back at the Home Minister over him raising the CAA issue while saying, “They care for nothing other than votes.” Banerjee’s nephew and TMC de facto No 2 Abhishek Banerjee then tweeted, “Since Shah has been living in virtual reality, let us bring him back to reality by asking: Has China made any incursions into Indian territory?”Now, if TMC chooses to take a leaf out of BJP’s virtual rallies, it will mean they will have to give up their own criticism of the BJP.A final decision will only be that by the Chief Minister herself, insist TMC sources. However, when it comes to Bengal, TMC knows it cannot let the problems come in the way as for Bengal’s ruling party it is a chance of survival with the 2021 Assembly election slated less than a year from now.All the more so, as it faces BJP’s election machine that has already surprised Banerjee last year by grabbing 18 Lok Sabha seats from the state, a jump of 16 seats from 2014.(Anindya Banerjee can be contacted at [email protected])–IANSabn/kr

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