The infighting within the ruling Trinamool Congress over the candidate list for the upcoming elections to 108 municipal bodies escalated Monday as protests spread across the state, forcing the party top brass to mount a damage control exercise.
Among other measures, the Trinamool announced Monday that it had formed coordination committees in all districts comprising senior leaders to look into party members' grievances.
The issue also brought to the fore rumors of strains in the relationship between TMC and the Prashant Kishor-led political consultancy I-PAC.
Media speculations over the future of the relationship, were termed as baseless by I-PAC.
The controversy erupted on Friday evening when TMC secretary-general Partha Chatterjee and party president Subrata Bakshi released the party's official list of candidates signed by them. A separate unsigned list of candidates popped up on the party's official social media handle.
After both lists were out, protests erupted in various parts of the state, as several disgruntled activists were seen taking to the streets to burn tires and raise slogans.
"The candidate list released by Partha Chatterjee and Subrata Bakshi is final. One cannot please everybody. There is some confusion," Mamata Banerjee told reporters at the airport.
When asked to comment on media reports about TMC and I-PAC being on the verge of a break-up, the feisty Trinamool boss said she wouldn't comment on anything unrelated to the party.
"Please don't ask questions which are not related to internal party matter. If there is anything related to internal party matters, you can ask. This is not related to party matter," she said.
Echoing Banerjee, TMC secretary-general Partha Chatterjee said he couldn't comment on reports of the break-up between TMC and I-PAC.
"Those who have relations with them (I-PAC), they can comment on it. There is no scope for having any contact with me; I look after party organization," he said.
When contacted, I-PAC officials said. “The media reports of break up between I-PAC and TMC is baseless.It is devoid of any truth. The TMC top brass, in an attempt to stomp out the protests, said everybody has to abide by the official list.
"The list that was released on Friday signed by two of us (Partha Chatterjee and Subrata Bakshi) was released after the final approval of Mamata Banerjee, and this is the final list.
"There have been some issues, and it has been sorted out a lot of people have aspirations to fight on a party ticket. But it is not always possible to please everyone," Mr Chatterjee said while addressing a press conference here.
Reaching out to dissidents, Mr Chatterjee said the party is one, and everybody has to unite against the BJP.
"TMC is one unified party under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee," he said.
A senior TMC leader, who did not wish to be named, blamed I-PAC for the entire goof up.
"It is due to I-PAC that this entire goof-up took place. The unsigned list that was uploaded was the list that was not given the nod by the party leadership," a senior TMC leader said.
As a section of party leadership blamed I-PAC for the trouble, sources in the organization claimed they had no role to play in this fiasco.
"We have no role in it. Our job is to assess the performance of the councilors; we did that and submitted our report. After that, it is for the party leadership to decide on whom to nominate," an I-PAC official said. . on condition of anonymity.
The TMC hired Kishor and his I-PAC to prepare its campaign and poll strategy for the 2021 West Bengal assembly polls. After the party's massive victory in the assembly polls, it decided to extend the contract until the 2026 assembly polls and assigned it to help the party expand its footprints in other states.
TMC's Kamarhati MLA Madan Mitra, who faced protests in his constituency over the issue, said he would take up the matter with party supremo Mamata Banerjee.
Meanwhile, senior TMC leader and Minister Sovandeb Chattopadhyay said he had recently left a party meeting in his Khardah constituency after his preferred nominees did not find a place in the list of candidates.
When asked about the grievances of the two senior leaders, Mr Chatterjee said he would talk to both of them.
The bickering in the ruling party comes amid the growing differences between the generation next leaders and a section of the old guards in the Trinamool Congress.
Mamata Banerjee, who was re-elected as the TMC chairperson last week, had warned against infighting within the party.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)