Pramod Giri, HT, 22 May 2016, Kolkata: Was he defeated by his own party men or was he not accepted as he was an outsider? Bhaichung Bhutia, the vanquished Trinamool Congress candidate from Siliguri, on Saturday pointed fingers at a section of TMC leaders in Siliguri saying that they had played a role in his defeat. He also said the party will be in serious trouble if a post-mortem isn’t done or action isn’t taken against those leaders.
Bhutia, the former India football team captain, lost to CPI(M)’s Asok Bhattacharya by a margin of 14,072 votes. While Bhattacharya got 78,054 votes, Bhutia got 63,982. This was Bhutia’s second election defeat after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Addressing a press conference, Bhutia said, “The party (Trinamool) should introspect and find out why it was defeated or why its winning margin went down in the seven wards of Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC) from where its candidates won by big margins in the 2015 SMC elections.”
Out of the 33 SMC wards that fall under Siliguri Assembly constituency, Bhutia was leading in 23 while he performed badly in 10. Out of these ten wards, seven are under the control of the Trinamool.
Ridiculing the claim that the success of the Siliguri Model — an alliance between the Left Front and the Congress — was the main factor behind his defeat, Bhutia said, “It cannot happen that the Siliguri model would work only in Siliguri. There could be other factors which led to my defeat.”
T hough Bhutia did not directly blame the Trinamool leaders and councillors for his defeat, the fact that he repeatedly questioned how the party got less votes in those seven wards compared to the 2015 SMC election was a clear pointer that he was holding a section of Trinamool leaders responsible for his defeat. The seven wards are believed to be TMC’s stronghold.
Citing an example of a municipal ward won by the TMC’s district president Ranjan Sarkar (Rana), Bhaichung said that in the 2015 SMC elections, the party got 2,056 votes in the ward while this Assembly election it got only 1,855 votes. Bhaichung trailed by 643 votes in this ward.
Similarly, he cited examples with figures of six other wards where the party fared badly.
Bhutia said, “It is high time that the party ponders over the development (his loss) and takes necessary action.”
He also said that he will submit a report to Mamata Banerjee.
From the very beginning, Bhutia was apprehensive that the ongoing factionalism in the party could prove costly for him. In his first election meeting here on March 7, he had said, “Unless we are united, the battle will be very tough.” He also said that the party leaders and workers should work as a team and ensure that no one sabotages the party’s chances.
Sources in the Trinamool who are close to Bhutia also said that many party leaders were hoping to get a ticket from Siliguri and were not happy with his candidature. They considered Bhutia an outsider and did not work with full dedication for him during his election campaign.
“Bhutia’s rise in politics could have gone against their interests,” said a source.
Though Bhutia did not answer when asked if the party leaders had sabotaged his chances, he said that the party would face serious problems if a postmortem is not done and action is not taken.
The fact that TMC’s senior leaders, including the party’s district president, were not present during Bhutia’s press conference spoke volumes about whom he was holding responsible for his defeat. Only the TMC’s founding district president, Pratul Chakraborty, was present along with Bhutia at the press conference. Chakraborty virtually has no say in the party.