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Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will take on Trinamool Congress (TMC) charges in West Bengal's Birbhum ahead of the panchayat polls as key party leader in the district Anubrata Mondal is behind bars for his alleged involvement in the cattle smuggling scam. Mamata Banerjee, who is on a three-day tour of Birbhum and neighboring areas to review administrative work, held a closed-door meeting with TMC leaders in the district. “…[she asked] for an update on the organizational readiness of the party from all block presidents,” said a TMC leader present at the meeting, seeking anonymity.
The Central Bureau of Investigation arrested Anubrata Mandal in August 2022 for his alleged involvement in the scam. Mandal was the only district-level leader to make it to the party's National Working Committee without ever contesting an election. A second TMC leader said a section of local leaders were trying to gain more control in parts of the district in Mondal's absence. The party leadership intervened and set up a four-member committee to look after the affairs of the party in the district.
Mamata Banerjee on Monday expanded the committee and inducted three more leaders including Birbhum and Bolpur Members of Parliament Satabdi Roy and Asit Mal. "Mamata Banerjee has said that she will personally look into the party's affairs in the district and will be assisted by senior leader and state minister Firhad Hakim," said a third TMC leader, requesting anonymity.
The panchayat poll is expected in the next two to three months. It will be the last major election exercise in the state before the Lok Sabha elections in 2024. Birbhum has been a TMC stronghold. TMC won both the 2019 Lok Sabha seats in the district. In 2021, she won 10 out of 11 representative seats there. A fourth TMC leader said retaining the party in the district was crucial for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.