Trinamool eyes Kerala entry, sets sights on Congress 'allies'
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POLITICS - December 2, 2021

Trinamool eyes Kerala entry, sets sights on Congress ‘allies’

After poaching leaders from rival parties in several states, the Trinamool Congress seems to have turned its radar to Kerala.

Mamata Banerjee’s party, which is on an ambitious expansion plan in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, has approached a few leaders in the southern state with a request to join it.

Democratic Congress Kerala leader Mani C. Kappan, who is an MLA, and disgruntled Congress leader A.V. Gopinath are among the TMC’s prime targets in Kerala.

Sources close to Kappan and Gopinath himself have confirmed to Onmanorama that they have been approached by the West Bengal-based party. Sources close to Kappan said the TMC is keen to have him in its fold as the party would get an MLA in Kerala.

“We have been directly contacted by the top leaders of the TMC from Kolkata,” a leader of the Democratic Congress Kerala told Onmanorama.

Kappan floated the party after he quit the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) ahead of the assembly polls earlier this year. Kappan moved out of the NCP after it became evident that the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) was planning to allot Pala seat, which he had represented, to Jose K. Mani’s Kerala Congress (M).

Kappan contested the election from Pala with the support of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and defeated Jose K. Mani. The UDF is yet to formally induct Kappan’s party into the alliance.

A leader close to Kappan said some people, who claimed to be TMC leaders in Kerala, have been trying to play intermediaries between his party and the TMC. “The fact is that the TMC does not have any committee in Kerala now. We have been contacted directly by the party’s central leadership,” he said.

Another source aware of the developments in Kappan’s camp said he is not keen about the TMC invite now as the party is not on good terms with the Congress at the national level. It is evident that Banerjee, who founded the TMC after quitting the Congress in 1997, is looking for expansion at the cost of Congress. She delivered a body blow to the Congress recently by poaching prominent leaders like Luizinho Faleiro (former Goa chief minister) and Sushmita Dev.

Mamata’s strained relationship with the Congress would make it difficult for the TMC to be a part of the Congress-led UDF in Kerala even if it succeeds in having Kappan in its fold. Kappan is unlikely to disturb his relationship with the Congress for TMC.

Gopinath weighing his options

Gopinath said he was contacted by the top leadership of the Trinamool Congress a month ago. Gopinath, who enjoys mass support in parts of Palakkad district, had announced that he was resigning from the Congress in August. However, the party is yet to accept his resignation.

“I was contacted by several parties after I announced the decision to quit Congress. Trinamool Congress also approached me. I have told them I would take any decision only after discussing it with my followers. As of now, I’m with the Congress,” Gopinath said.

The former MLA decided to quit the Congress following the appointment of the district Congress committee presidents after K. Sudhakaran took charge as the party’s state chief. It was speculated that Gopinath would be accommodated in the KPCC as he has a cordial relationship with Sudhakaran. However, it did not happen.

TMC on a poaching spree

The TMC, which hopes to play a prominent role in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, has been on a poaching spree of late. Leaders from various political parties have been joining the TMC in the past few months after it registered a thumping victory in the West Bengal assembly polls, thrashing the BJP’s dreams there. Riding high on the confidence infused by the hat-trick win in West Bengal, Banerjee wants to project herself as an alternative to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and her party as the lead player of an opposition front at a time when the Congress is at its weakest. Reports say political strategist Prashant Kishor is behind the induction of leaders of other parties into the TMC.

Senior Congress leaders such as Kirti Azad and Ashok Tanwar and former JD(U) MP Pavan Varma Tripathi had joined TMC recently. Five BJP legislators in West Bengal have also joined the TMC.

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