In a 4-0 clean sweep in bypolls in Bengal, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress snatched two seats from the BJP on Tuesday, steamrolling the party for the second time this year in the state. The Trinamool’s Derek O’Brien, in an interview to NDTV, said the big message is that “beyond Bengal, the BJP is beatable”. He also had a sharp message for the Congress, asserting that the “time is gone where a 23-year-old (Trinamool) is told by a 100-year-old grandmamma and grandpapa what to do”.
“The BJP has to be defeated… The mindset has to change… that we are equal partners in the opposition. Just because we are 22 or 23-year-old TMC (Trinamool Congress) and somebody else is 100-year-old… Grandmamma and granddaddy cannot tell a 22-year-old energetic party, ready to take on (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi and (Amit) Shah… we are youthful and energetic and we want to take the BJP on. Let’s work on this, rather than talk down on us,” Derek O’Brien told NDTV, without naming the Congress.
“We have the passion, the energy to take the BJP on. Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool has been doing this consistently…”
He pointed out that in the Bengal election earlier this year, the Trinamool fought 294 seats and the Congress and CPM together fought on their own and “got zero seats”.
According to the results of the bypolls held on October 30, the Trinamool wrested two assembly seats from the BJP- Dinhata and Santipur- by huge margins and retained the Khardah and Gosaba assembly seats.
The BJP’s candidates lost their deposits in three constituencies.
“Beyond Bengal, I think the message is that the BJP, Modi and Shah are beatable,” Mr O’Brien said.
“There are issues we are not talking about- look at the economy, look at the jobs, freedom of expression… These issues need to come to the fore and we should spend less time talking about opposition unity. Opposition unity is another chapter- it is more important for the opposition to bring these issues to the fore.”
He also spoke on the Trinamool’s aggressive push in other states besides Bengal and added: “Our simple message in Goa and Tripura is that we are not here for the sprint, but for the long run.”
The Trinamool Congress leader referred to the BJP’s setback in Himachal Pradesh, where its rival Congress swept the three assembly and one Lok Sabha seat that voted on Saturday, and the Shiv Sena winning its first Lok Sabha seat outside Maharashtra, in Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
“We are also excited by the Shiv Sena winning the Lok Sabha eat. The BJP could not hold on to its seat in Himachal… All in all, it was a pretty bad day for the BJP but we need to keep this momentum going,” the Trinamool Rajya Sabha member said.
He also rattled off smaller insights from Tuesday’s bypoll results- two BJP and two Trinamool seats in May is now four to zero and the Trinamool’s margins are massive, going up to 1.5 lakh votes.
He also jibed that “the Left and the BJP are going hammer and tongs for the second and third spot” and that “Mr Shah is not coming to Bengal in a hurry.”
“The other reading could be that there are no firecrackers this Diwali. So Happy Diwali to everybody in the BJP. May they have a happy and quiet Diwali,” Mr O’Brien chuckled.
He took another shot at the BJP with reference to the reverse migration from the BJP of Trinamool leaders who had joined the party before the Bengal election earlier this year and are scrambling to return after Mamata Banerjee’s victory.
“On a more serious note… the BJP has been running a divisive campaign but it is well on its way to imploding in Bengal… But the gates of the Trinamool are not just open gates where people can just walk in. If folks wish to join the TMC, they need to put in good hours of penance, and by that I mean good work for people, before they can be welcomed back.
The BJP had won 77 of the 292 seats in Bengal in the April-May assembly election. The Trinamool Congress had won 213 seats. The Trinamool’s tally has now gone up to 217 seats and the BJP’s is down to 75.