West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday publicly rebuked her party leaders by name for factional feuds and not going to rural areas, as she tried to tone up the party ahead of the municipal elections in a region where it has been traditionally weak.
In the Lok Sabha polls, the Trinamool drew a blank in Malda district - where the BJP and the Congress won one seat each. In the 2016 assembly elections also, Ms Banerjee's party, notwithstanding its thumping win elsewhere, failed to open its account. Of the 12 seats, the CPI-M-Congress alliance got 11 seats, while the BJP got one.
"Why do we never win in Malda? There are 12 seats, and we have ten dozen leaders in our party. But they can't get us seats. Whenever I hold election meetings, I address huge crowds. But when election results are announced, we see the vote has gone elsewhere," she said.
"I know the reason. I have been in politics for too long to not understand what happens here. it is clear that the fault-lines lie with us. Unless these are rectified, even if I hold thousand meetings, it will all be fruitless," said Ms Banerjee.
In Malda, the Muslim votes have traditionally been divided between the Congress and Trinamool, as also the CPI-M, while the BJP is going all out to bring about a social and religious polarisation, to repeat its success in weaning majority of Hindus into its fold.
Addressing the party's booth-level workers' conference at Choto Sujapur, Ms Banerjee started pulling up district leaders one by one.
She reprimanded former MLA Sabitri Mitra and Gourchanda Mandal for fighting among themselves.
"You two are fighting all the time. Why? Just don't fight," she said.
The chief minister then turned to party leader Babla Sarkar. "I have found you never venture beyond the municipal areas of Englishbazar and Old Malda. It seems everyone has become municipal leaders. Nobody cares to visit the rural areas. Babla, you must go to the villages."
She told party leader Kartick Ghosh: "Why do you always quarrel with your uncle? The two of you should sit together and solve your problems."
Ms Banerjee distributed different responsibilities for the civic polls among various leaders.
A Trinamool source said the stamp of election strategist Prashant Kishore, roped in by the party, was visible in the way Ms Banerjee scolded her party leaders and then divided the work among them.
According to the source, Mr Kishore and his I-PAC (Indian Political Action Committee) team secured intensive and extensive feedback from the grassroots about the party's deficiencies through the mass outreach initiative 'Didi ke bolo' (dial Didi - as Ms Banerjee is affectionately called). The feedback was then shared with the top Trinamool leadership and remedial measures zeroed into.