JHARGRAM: Admission of corruption, self-reform and corrective measures by errant satraps of the ruling Trinamool Congress is the new strategy to claw back to political prominence in Jungalmahal ahead of 2021 Assembly elections. The TMC had faced a whitewash and had failed to stop the saffron juggernaut in the Lok Sabha polls in Jungle Mahal, then considered a TMC fortress. The result was that The BJP had won four seats. The stinging defeats had come despite the TMC carrying out large-scale development works in the Dalit and Tribal-dominated zone covering Jhargram and Purulia and parts of Bankura and Midnapore districts. “The defeat was unbelievable,” TMC leaders had admitted.
“An internal analysis threw up corruption among local party leaders as being responsible for the blow. Using financial grants under several state government schemes to make a quick buck, panchayat leaders deprived the poor of the benefits. Angry Tribals and Kurmis, who form over 63% of the electorate, voted for the BJP. We have to own up our mistakes and reform,” said a TMC leader in Jhargram. He said electors’ mood in Jhargram reflects the electoral pulse of entire Jungle Mahal. “Didi Ke Bolo (Tell Your Sister) outreach drive is helping the party earn back trust,” he added.“Five groups from, poll strategist Prashant Kishor’s I-PAC team, have been visiting the villages and speaking to common people and collecting data. It’s also identifying corrupt leaders and suggesting that they seek an apology,’’ said Shyamal Mahato, TMC block president in Lalgarh.
The state government has concentrated on building schools, bridges, ITI institutes, new roads, houses for the poor and ensuring drinking water in every nook and corner of this perennially drought-affected region.
Financial assistance and doles under various schemes, covering the elderly, tribals and widows are available aplenty now. “We never saw political leaders visiting our villages. Didi (Mamata Banerjee) has done a lot for us. In the Lok Sabha polls, we voted against the local leaders, not against Didi. Now, panchayat leaders are apologising for their misdeeds and refunding money to the poor. We never imagined such a thing could happen. This time, we will not let her down,’’ said Monsharam Singh, a tribal living at Dhangikusum village located between two hills along the Bengal-Jharkhand border.
Singh’s village used to be inaccessible just four years ago. Villagers had to cross snake-infested jungles to reach home. They had to cross another hill to sell saal leaves and wood in Jharkhand, which earned them Rs 20 to 25 a day. With the state constructing a road, cutting across the hill, villagers are now travelling to a nearby market in Belpahari and earning more in less time. BJP’s defeat in Jharkhand is also another factor that is helping the Trinamool. “The people from our community have rejected the BJP in Jharkhand and there is similar sentiment here. Many people are against the Citizenship Act since none have papers to prove their ancestry, especially those living in dense forests,’’ said Subhash Mahato of Banspahari. Birbaha Soren, TMC district president, who contested the LS polls from Jhargram said, “The situation has changed since 2019 polls. Those who shifted to BJP have returned to us.’’