Abhishek Banerjee"s "Diamond Harbour model" kicks off inner-party debate, TMC asks leaders not to air their views in public

  • | Friday | 14th January, 2022

Kolkata, January 14 (PTI) The "Diamond Harbour model" of TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee to contain the spread of COVID-19 in an effective way in West Bengal has kicked off an inner-party debate and brought out in the open the differences between the generation next leaders and a section of the old guard, who have openly criticized him for trying to undermine the efforts of the state government. Embarrassed over the war of words between the two camps, the party leadership has cracked the whip and asked the leaders not to air their views in public fora or the media without prior permission from the party. According to TMC leaders close to Banerjee, the Diamond Harbour model implies maximum number of tests on a single day, strict implementation of COVID safety protocol, banning all political, social and religious meetings till the end of February, a dedicated control room and WhatsApp number for every panchayat and municipality, isolation centres, doctors on call and doctor and health staff-on-wheels facility. On the occasion of Swami Vivekananda"s birthday on January 12, he had written in the social media that more than 53,000 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 the average regular testing figure of 65,000 to 70,000 across the state. The state"s positivity rate for coronavirus is around 30 per cent. "Since January 12, strict compliance of COVID safety protocols, ensuring easy availability of doctors, a dedicated Whatsapp group and several other steps have been taken to keep a check on the COVID situation in Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha constituency. Party workers and government officers in the area are working in close coordination in the area," said a TMC leader of South 24 Parganas district, under which Diamond Harbour falls. 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. 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 at a meeting with government officials had raised eyebrows last week. "He has proved that a combination of proper planning, efficient leadership and strong will power is capable of overcoming difficult to difficult problems. The #DiamondHarbourModel has proven to be quite effective to deal the 3rd wave of Covid 19. Congratulations @abhishekaitcDa," TMC youth leader Debangshu Bhattacharya tweeted. 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". On Thursday, three-time party MP Kalyan Banerjee was openly critical of the "Diamond Harbour model". "What model? There is only one model that Mamata Banerjee has implemented. We are all fighting COVID in our own ways. This so-called "Diamond Harbour model" has been blown out of proportion," he said. The veteran TMC leader had also criticized Abhishek Banerjee, the nephew of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, for airing his views in public and speaking in the "language of opposition BJP", which too had demanded that all political gatherings and civic polls in the state be postponed. "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. The BJP is saying postpone civic poll and someone from our party without the nod from the top leadership is saying withhold all political gatherings. 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 secretary Kunal Ghosh tried to dispel the controversy by saying it was not one model versus another, he was critical of Kalyan Banerjee. "Under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee, the government is trying its best to combat the pandemic. 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 government"s stand. So it is not one model versus another," Ghosh said. He also 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 the post of 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 on his Facebook page, saying, "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 had been asked not to air their views in public fora. "If anyone has to say something, 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 successful 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. "What wrong have people of other constituencies committed that they can"t avail these facilities of doctor on wheels or maximum testing in their areas? This is an absurd thing where the party national general secretary competes with the chief minister," he said. PTI PNT KK KK KK

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