Kolkata: The Trinamool Congress has promoted Lok Sabha MP Abhishek Banerjee to the General Secretary post, it was announced Saturday after senior leaders of Bengal’s ruling party held an organisational meeting in Kolkata – the first since their decisive victory over the BJP in the April-May election.
The elevation comes after Banerjee, who is Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew, was widely seen as having played a key role in the party’s win, particularly as he was instrumental in hiring poll strategist Prashant Kishor.
Banerjee’s appointment indicates his growing influence within the party – a reason why many of its leaders, including Suvendu Adhikari, Mamata Banerjee’s former right-hand man – quit ahead of polls.
A vocal voice during campaigning, he was targeted by senior BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, with cries of “tolabaj bhaipo”, or “extortionist nephew, , and his promotion today is likely to add fuel to that fire.
The party has also appointed MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar as President of its women’s wing, and actor Saayoni Ghosh, who unsuccessfully contested last month’s election, as head of the youth wing.
Banerjee, who previously led the youth wing, will now stand down from that post, with the party following a “one person, one position formula”, senior leader Partha Chatterjee said.
Chatterjee also said the party is planning on “expanding the organisation outside Bengal” – a potentially significant remark with Assembly elections due in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Gujarat next year, and Lok Sabha elections due in three years’ time.
Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Derek O’Brien have been retained as the party’s parliamentary leaders.
Another decision taken at today’s meeting was the banning of red beacons on minister’s cars.
Today’s meeting also deliberated on the party’s strategy for upcoming bypolls, including the election to the Bhabanipur seat in Kolkata, from where Ms Banerjee is expected to contest.
Mamta Banerjee contested the April-May election from Nandigram but lost that seat to Suvendu Adhikari, and must be elected to the Assembly within six months to retain her post.
Today’s meeting also focused on strategies to counter the BJP’s “vendetta politics” – a reference to outbreaks of violence and accusatory remarks the two parties continue to exchange.
A senior Trinamool leader said on Friday the BJP is out to “needle the democratically elected” Mamata Banerjee government.