The ’Diamond Harbour model’ of TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee to contain the spread of COVID-19 in West Bengal has kicked off an inner-party debate and brought out in the open the differences between the old guard and generation next leaders. The party leadership embarassed with the war of words between the two camps, has cracked the whip and asked the leaders not to air their views in public fora.
Although most party leaders have come out in support of Banerjee’s model, a section of party leaders have openly criticized it for being “blown out of proportion”. Banerjee came up with the model as Bengal faced a sudden surge in the number of coronavirus cases since the last week of December 2021.
On the occasion of Swami Vivekananda’s birthday, he wrote in the social media that more than 50,000 COVID tests were conducted in his Diamond Harbour parliamentary constituency, while reporting a positivity rate of 2.31 per cent, which is in sharp contrast to average regular testing figure of 65,000 to 70,000 across the state. The state’s positivity rate is around 30 per cent.
With the annual Gangasagar Mela underway and civic polls to four municipal corporations slated for January 22, the TMC national general secretary’s remarks on halting political programmes and religious meetings for two months had raised eyebrows last week. Three-time party MP Kalyan Banerjee was openly critical of the Diamond Harbour model on Thursday. ”What model? There is only one model that Mamata Banerjee has come up with. We are all fighting COVID in our own ways,” he said.
The veteran TMC leader had also criticised Abhishek Banerjee, the nephew of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, for airing his views in public and speaking in the language of opposition BJP. ”I may have my own opinion on some issues. But should I broach it outside? We should never do it. There is a rule in an organization. It seems someone is speaking in the language of the opposition BJP. People of the state had voted for Mamata Banerjee, our leader, in past elections. She is my leader. I don’t consider anyone else as my leader,” he said.
Although TMC state general Kunal Ghosh tried to dispel the controversy by saying it was not one model versus other, he was critical of Kalyan Banerjee. ”Under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee the government is trying its hardest to combat the pandemic. The public representatives are always doing their level best in their own area. Abhishek Banerjee is our national general secretary. What he said about containing the COVID-19 spike reflects the general public’s opinion. It is not contrary to the stand of the ruling dispensation. So it is not one model versus another,” Ghosh said.
He said the party keeps a close watch on what leaders are saying in the public forum. Echoing Ghosh, TMC MP Aparupa Poddar said that Kalyan Banerjee should resign from his post of the party chief whip in Lok Sabha as he has violated its discipline.
Banerjee did not take it lightly and posted a few lines from a poem in the social that said ”the difference is all about having a spine and speaking the truth”. Sensing that the mudslinging by the party leaders was sending out a wrong message, the TMC top brass was quick to step in and crack the whip.
On Friday TMC secretary general, Partha Chatterjee said everyone in the party has been asked not to air their view in public fora. ”If anyone has to say anything, then he should air his views within the party,” he said.
Senior party MP Sougata Roy said there is no clash between the ’Diamond Harbour model’ and the state government’s approach in dealing with COVID-19. ”There is neither any clash nor any confusion between what Abhishek Banerjee has said and the TMC government’s approach in dealing with the pandemic. There is nothing wrong in what Abhishek has said,” he said.
The opposition parties hit out at TMC and wondered if the Diamond Harbour model was a success and whether the state government failed to combat the pandemic. ”If the Diamond Harbour model is a success, then the state government model of tackling COVID-19 is a failure. So, if Abhishek Banerjee has passed, then the chief minister has failed,” CPI (M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said.
State Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that if 50,000 coronavirus tests can be conducted in Diamond Harbour, then why are people residing in other areas facing step motherly treatment in the matter.