West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's 'Didi Ke Bolo' (Tell Didi) campaign is helping the Trinamool Congress reach out to people in distress, but at the same time forcing party leaders to handle uncomfortable questions about cut money, arrogance of local leaders and syndicates.
As advised by poll strategist Prashant Kishor and his organisation, appointed by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) after its poor performance in the Lok Sabha polls, Ms Banerjee on July 29 had launched a dedicated helpline number and a website as part of 'Didi Ke Bolo', to enable people to have a direct interface with party functionaries.
As part of the programme, over 1,000 party leaders are visiting 10,000 villages to redress the grievances of people.
Senior TMC leaders cited examples of Rima Datta of North 24 Parganas district, Samar Mandal of South 24 Parganas district, Ebadur Rahman of Hooghly district, Jagannath Chakraborty of Howrah district and Mohammed Firoz of Jalpaiguri district who had received assistance for medical emergency or getting admission to colleges.
"After getting calls from people in distress, we contacted local TMC leaders and departments concerned, who were asked to resolve the issues. All the complaints were addressed within 24 hours," a senior Trinamool leader told news agency Press Trust of India.
Even people from West Bengal who were stuck in floods in Karnataka and Kerala were rescued after their location and coordinates were passed on to the disaster management department, the TMC leader claimed.
However, the initiative has also raised some allegations against a section of party leaders. "People have called up the helpline number and complained about extortion, cut money and syndicates. As soon as we received such calls, we looked into their grievances."
"Some callers have complained against certain leaders, especially those who have joined the TMC from other parties after we came to power in 2011," another TMC leader told PTI on the condition of anonymity.
During the mass outreach programme too, the party leaders are being forced to bite the tongue while answering queries on cut money and alleged arrogance of local TMC leaders, a party functionary said.
"We are facing a tough time answering these questions. But we can assure the people that steps will be taken to address these issues," a TMC leader, who faced such uncomfortable questions, told PTI.
Among those participating in the outreach programme are senior party leaders and ministers Rabindranath Ghosh, Jyotipriyo Mullick, Arup Roy, Firhad Hakim, Partha Chatterjee, Sashi Panja, Sadhan Pande, Tapan Dasgupta, Nirmal Ghosh and Abdur Rezzak Mollah.
"In some of the areas that we have visited, people are questioning us why we are hesitating to throw out corrupt and arrogant leaders from the party. We will submit our observations to the leadership," said another TMC leader.
Reacting to the development, state BJP president Dilip Ghosh said people of West Bengal are "fed up" with the misrule of the state government and "cut money business" of the TMC.
"The questions they are facing are just a mild reflection of the people's ire towards them. Time is running out for the TMC as people are getting ready to throw them out of power in next assembly polls," Mr Ghosh said.
In the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP has bettered its performance significantly from two seats in 2014 to 18 this year, in the 42 seats of the state.
The TMC, which won 22 Lok Sabha seats, has sought "professional help" to refurbish its image in order to counter an aggressive and ideology-driven BJP in the state, ahead of the 2021 assembly polls, sources told news agency PTI.
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