Mamata Banerjee Unveils "One Call Away" Outreach Scheme To Check BJP Tide

Mamata Banerjee's "Didi Ke Bolo" programme will help citizens reach her with complaints and feedback.

Didi Ke Bolo was launched by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday.

Kolkata:

"Give me a call" - that's the new campaign Mamata Banerjee launched in Kolkata today to give her 21-year-old party, the Trinamool Congress, a makeover. "Didi Ke Bolo (Tell Didi)", her new calling card, actually has a cellphone number where you are invited to dial her in need. Also, a website of the same name where you can leave your thoughts. And Didi will get back to you is the promise.

So is Trinamool going corporate? Trinamool Inc? No, not corporate. But yes modern, said Mamata Banerjee.

But she refused to answer the most obvious question of all, in fact took offence it was asked even - what is the role of poll strategist Prashant Kishor in the new look grassroots party?

But new look it is.

For the first time ever, Mamata Banerjee read out a printed statement.

And the Trinamool logo in the programme's literature is black and white. "Because it is black and white on the EVM," said a campaign source.

The venue of the press conference - sprawling with two dozen climate controllers at least - had chairs clothed in white overalls. Many more than journalists. The bilingual press release so glossy, it could pass for a brochure for a high-end hi-tech product and nothing like the frugal posters of Bengal's political parties.

BJP was not once mentioned in the press conference. The only time she alluded to it was when asked why the hi-tech focus. "When other parties are using data and other things, we also want to use technology to keep in touch with people," she said.

Not just technology, the "Didi Ke Bolo" campaign is actually Mamata Banerjee's dictat to her party workers to go back to "Trinamool" or grassroots.

"In the next 100 days, 1,000 elected party workers will go to 10,000 villages to the booth-level and meet party workers, ordinary people and eminent people in their respective areas if they are willing to meet," said Mamata Banerjee.

"Party workers will stay overnight if needed in the villages. They will also have at least one meal in the village in the home of a booth level worker," she added. "In every village, at the end of the day, they will raise a flag - the Trinamool flag," Ms Banerjee said.

So has Didi kicked off her 2021 poll campaign? No, she said. Elections are almost two years away. This campaign she said had nothing to do with elections.

But certainly Mamata Baenrjee must have the 2021 assembly elections on her mind, especially given the loss of 12 Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 elections and given the BJP's aggressive attempts to make further inroads into Bengal.

Her nephew and party lawmaker Abhishek Banerjee is credited with getting Prashant Kishore on board, influenced no doubt by the performance of Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh in the last polls. Mr Kishore met Mamata Banerjee first on June 6 - around two weeks after the shock results of May 23. Mamata Banerjee has been evasive about what the role of his consultancy I-PAC (Indian Political Action Committee) would be. She remained evasive today too. But the PK stamp was all over the place.

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