Veteran Congress leader Om Prakash Mishra joins Trinamool

Published : September 05, 2019 18:54 IST

Congress veteran Om Prakash Mishra (left) joining the Trinamool Congress in the presence of party supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Education Minister Partha Chatterjee (second from left) and Transport Minister Subendhu Adhikari, in Kolkata on September 4. Photo: PTI

At a time when the Congress in West Bengal is struggling to stay afloat, it was dealt a severe blow on September 4, when one of its most senior and high-profile leaders, State unit vice-president Om Prakash Mishra, joined the Trinamool Congress. The move has taken quite a few political observers by surprise as Mishra was a vocal critic of the Mamata Banerjee government in the State and the Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre. He was one of the architects of the Left-Congress seat understanding arrangement in the 2016 Assembly electionas part of the attempt to overthrow the Trinamool.

“I count myself among those people who are steadfast in their commitment to uphold the democratic and secular principles of our Constitution. I have had my differences with the Trinamool on issues relating to the lack of democracy, the continuation of violence, etc., but these differences were within the parameters of parliamentary democracy. But what the BJP represents is a negation of constitutional democracy. Bengal cannot afford to have the ascendancy of the BJP. Taking such matters into consideration, I came to my decision,” Om Prakash Mishra told Frontline.

He believes that it is the failure of the Left and the Congress to arrive at an understanding that resulted in the BJP’s rise in the State. “In 2016, the Congress-Left combine put up a stiff fight against the Trinamool, but what is most significant is that we could take away 33 per cent of the BJP vote. The BJP, from 17.2 per cent (in the 2014 Lok Sabha election) was reduced to 10.6 per cent in 2016. This was because the fight was confined between the Congress-Left on one side and the Trinamool on the other. “This arrangement, of which I was one of the main architects, should have gone forward to the next level. My charge against the Congress and the Left is that their inability to come to an agreement resulted in the BJP securing 40 per cent of the votes,” said Om Prakash Mishra.

Mishra, who teaches International Relations at Jadavpur University, has been incorporated in the “core committee” of the Trinamool Congress and will also be overseeing matters relating to the party’s education policy. For the Trinamool, a top opposition leader joining the party has come as a welcome change at a time when it is facing rampant defection from both its leadership and its rank and file to the BJP camp.