Mamata announces mass contact campaign, BJP mocks (Lead)

Kolkata, July 29 (IANS) Around two months after the Lok Sabha debacle, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, here on Monday, announced an 'enhanced mass contact campaign', asking around 1,000 party leaders to visit over 10,000 villages and towns during the next 100 days.

Terming it as the "modernisation" of the Trinamool Congress (TMC), she said during the campaign, leaders and elected representatives would strive to build "stronger contact at the grass root and listen to people's grievances".

"The TMC is starting a new campaign to increase mass contact. To build direct contacts with people, we are introducing a phone number (9137091370) where people can call us and tell us about their problems," Banerjee said after a meeting with the party MLAs.

"Through this campaign, over 1,000 TMC leaders and elected representatives will visit more than 10,000 villages and towns in the next 100 days and to build mass contact. They will listen to the people and party activists and spend nights in those villages," she said.

The TMC supremo also launched a website www.dididkebolo.com through which people can share their problems.

"The motive of the campaign is to build a strong mass base and listen to people's grievances. Those who want to connect with us can call us through the new number or get in touch via the website. People should be provided a platform to express what they feel," Banerjee said.

The party leaders taking part in the mass outreach programme would be working only within their constituencies, she said.

The TMC targets to reach out to 1.60 crore people over the next 20 months. Banerjee has asked leaders to plan their programmes in a manner that it included a meeting with 3-5 eminent people of the area.

Asked if the TMC's grip at the grass root level has loosened over the years, she said the party still was a "grass root level party" and added, the initiatives were aimed at further strengthening the bond with the masses.

Refuting the reports that the TMC was mulling recruiting "whole-timers", Banerjee said it did not have that kind of money to take such measures. "Our's is a poor party. It does not have the money to keep 'whole-timers'," she said.

Ridiculing the programme, the BJP said it was political strategist Prashant Kishor's idea, who has been roped in to refurbish the TMC's image. "This seems to be an idea of Kishor. But people will call up Didi to complain about who has taken the cut-money, and when. They will then ask her to ensure they get their money back," said Union Minster Babul Supriyo.

Stating that the TMC and Banerjee had lost their credibility and popularity, Supriyo said, "People want to get rid of this regime. They will tell her that she has nothing more to give to the masses."

BJP MP Arjun Singh called Banerjee's plan another "bluff" perpetrated on the people. "During my 30-year association with her I could never contact her over phone. She even never called workers like me from her own mobile number," Singh said.

--IANS

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