March 26, 2014

On the Road before E Day | March 24 & 25, 2014

Day 1 & 2

Being part of an election campaign is exhilarating, exciting but also exhausting. In Kolkata it's required me to re-order my schedules and made a regular office-goer of me. Every evening I find myself in the Trinamool Congress headquarters in the eastern part of the city, talking to colleagues and going through papers and publicity material, doing what has been assigned to me. The Trinamool office is an old haunt. Some would call it a ramshackle building but for me it has a certain charm, and many, many memories.

On Monday and Tuesday, March 24 and 25, I didn’t go to my room at Trinamool Bhawan. Instead, I travelled to Jharkhand, a state our party is targeting quite seriously. We have filed nominations for eight of the 14 Lok Sabha seats here. More than that, we are treating this election as a semi-final before the Jharkhand assembly polls later in 2014. As such, between the parliamentary election and the assembly election, 2014 could be Trinamool’s breakthrough year in Jharkhand.

Evidently other parties also think so. As we announced our decision to contest seats in Jharkhand, three parties came up with offers of alliances or seat-sharing arrangements. This would have ensured an easy route to establishing a presence in the state but, in her trademark manner, Mamata Banerjee declined. Instinctively she prefers the longer and more sustainable route.

In Jharkhand I had a busy two days. Our opponents resorted to dirty tricks fairly quickly. Trinamool’s election committee convenor in Dhanbad was suddenly arrested, apparently in a follow-up to a case filed in 1993 – 21 years ago! Next, the Trinamool candidate in Lohardaga found his nomination papers challenged by the Congress – which is otherwise absent from serious electoral contention in Jharkhand. It took a 36-hour legal battle for justice to be done and for our candidate to win the right to fight the election.

I was involved in much of this and marched with three of my party colleagues as they led processions to file their nomination papers. Later, I addressed a media conference, the first time I fielded questions and delivered answers entirely in Hindi, which is not my strongest language. Thankfully, the local journalists in Ranchi were in generous mood and encouraged and helped me find words as I went along. They recognised a genuine attempt and an honesty of purpose. Hopefully, so will the voters of Jharkhand when it comes to blessing Trinamool nominees.

Derek O’Brien
Member of Parliament
Chief Whip in the Rajya Sabha and National Spokesperson, Trinamool Congress