Mamata Banerjee’s unprecedented coup in Meghalaya — the joining of 12 of 17 Congress MLAs led by Mukul Sangma late last evening — started with a meeting between election strategist Prashant Kishor and the senior Congress leader. At a press conference earlier today, Mr Sangma shared that he had met Mr Kishor in Kolkata as he was a “good friend… who can make a difference”.
It all started after the Central leadership picked Vincent Pala as the chief of the party’s state unit, Mr Sangma said.
“There has to be equilibrium in democracy. We need an effective opposition,” Mr Sangma said. “We have raised this with the leadership in Delhi. We have made many trips to Delhi, but nothing happened… While looking for options for an opposition space, I ended up meeting my good friend Prashant Kishor-ji, whom we all know, who can make a difference. I’m very happy to disclose, when we interacted, we shared the same objective – interest of the people supersede everything,” Mr Sangma said.
Mr Kishor — who had crafted Mamata Banerjee’s campaign for the April-May state elections that led to a stupendous victory – is now propelling her towards the national stage.
The election strategist, who, after Mamata Banerjee’s big victory had said he would “quit this space” – is known to get on well with the Trinamool leader and counts himself as her political aide. “It was an absolute pleasure working with her. She is extremely receptive about suggestions and an absolute delight to work with,” he had said after the election.
Many believe that Ms Banerjee now will be pitched as the face of the opposition – a position made possible by the results of Bengal, where she took on the mighty election machinery of the BJP and won in spades.
So far, Ms Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress was seen as targeting Tripura ahead of the next round of assembly elections in 2023. But last evening’s events made it clear that Meghalaya and the rest of the northeast is also very much on her shopping list.
Sources indicated that Mr Kishor’s election strategy team is in Meghalaya’s capital Shillong to prepare the Trinamool Congress for the 2023 assembly election.
Meghalaya is the latest state where the Trinamool, in expansion mode over the last couple of months, has made an inroad. In Assam, Goa, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Haryana, its inroad has been at the cost of the Congress.
Her acquisition list over the last weeks has included Luizinho Faleiro in Goa, former Rahul Gandhi aide Ashok Tanwar in Haryana and former Janata Dal United leader Pawan Verma in Bihar.
In Delhi yesterday, Mamata Banerjee gave an open invitation to any leader who wanted to join Trinamool in its battle against the BJP. She also flared up when asked about a possible meeting with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, questioning if it was “mandatory”.
Mr Kishor has never made a secret of his reservations about the Congress. In his last bout of criticism in October — weeks after talks of his entry to Congress cooled off — he had said the BJP will is not going anywhere and will remain at the “centre of Indian polity” whether they win or lose.