KOLKATA: Congress and the Left, which oppose BJP nationally, should not work against the TMC in West Bengal, and efforts should be made for a broadbased alliance of opposition parties ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, Trinamool Congress Secretary General Partha Chatterjee has said.
He said TMC Supremo Mamata Banerjee will be a pivotal anti-BJP force in the general elections and play a crucial role in ousting the BJP from power.
Chatterjee, an influential minister in the Banerjee cabinet, also said the TMC is undergoing a generational change so it can have a perfect balance of the old and the young.
Talking about a torrent of TMC deserters wanting to return to the party after its triumph over the BJP in the assembly elections, he said, the decision on their reinduction will be made on a "case to case basis" but wondered whether they would have bothered to return if the party had not become victorious.
"Mamata Banerjee is the most credible and dependable anti-BJP face in the country. It is my appeal that all anti- BJP forces should come together. Some parties like the Left and the Congress are opposing BJP nationally but are working against us in Bengal. This should not be the case."
"Mamata Banerjee and the TMC will be the pivotal anti-BJP force in 2024 and play a very vital role in ousting the BJP," Chatterjee told PTI in an interview.
Responding to a question about the recent elevation of young leaders such as Lok Sabha MP and Banerjee's nephew Abhishek Banerjee, he said the party was going through a generational shift.
Abhishek was appointed TMC national general secretary soon after the party's victory in the assembly elections in May.
"We started our journey in 1998. Now we are undergoing a generational shift. This is being done with an eye on the future. to groom the next generation that can take over the mantle in times to come," he said.
Chatterjee said Mamata Banerjee is herself overseeing this generational shift to prepare the party for future battles.
"Abhishek is a very popular youth leader and is shaping well," he said.
"There has to be a perfect balance of the old and the new. You have to bring in young blood as it is required for future. Now, what will be the ratio of the young to the old is for our party supremo to decide," he said.
The TMC veteran rejected suggestions of a possible conflict between the old guard and the young leaders during such change.
"We go through the process of discussion, conciliation and consensus before arriving at any decision. Above all, we have Mamata Banerjee, who is our guiding force and takes the final call," the 68-year old leader said.
The issue of reinduction of the turncoats will be decided by Mamata Banerjee on a "case to case" basis, one of the main troubleshooters of the West Bengal chief minister said.
"We won the elections without these turncoats. They deserted the party on the eve of elections as they felt we might not return to power. But our party returned to power, and these turncoats have made a beeline (for return)."
"My question to these turncoats is why are you now so desperate to return? I wonder whether these leaders would have bothered to come back to the party had we not returned to power," he said.
BJP national vice president Mukul Roy, who had quit the TMC in 2017, returned to the state's ruling party last month, and many more were said to be keen on re-joining Banerjee's outfit.
About the possibility of the return of former minister Rajib Banerjee, who had joined the BJP just before the polls, the TMC secretary general said disdainfully," He is not such a big leader who we need to discuss."
"When we wanted to retain him, held meetings with him, he was not willing to stay back. He was desperate to take a chartered flight to Delhi to join some other party. What happened suddenly that he is so desperate to take a return chartered flight to Kolkata?" Chatterjee said derisively.
Rajib Banerjee and a few other TMC leaders had flown to New Delhi just ahead of the assembly elections and joined the BJP.
Banerjee, after the saffron party's loss and his own defeat from his tradition seat, has been criticising the BJP and sending feelers to his former party in order to return to its fold.
Chatterjee said while TMC workers who had crossed over to the BJP are free to return, Mamata Banerjee will personally take a call about leaders.
Responding to a question with regard to the the row over appointment of Mukul Roy as the chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, Chatterjee said there was nothing wrong about it.
"Roy is still an MLA of the BJP," he quipped and referred to the practice of appointing an opposition legislator the head the important assembly panel.
The BJP has vehemently opposed Roy's selection as the head of the PAC, insisting he had crossed over to the ruling party and demanding his disqualification.