Adhikari is miffed with the TMC leadership.
New Delhi: A few months ahead of the 2021 West Bengal Assembly elections, the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) may lose one of its most influential leaders, Suvendu Adhikari. There is speculation that he could either join the Bharatiya Janata Party or form his own outfit. A Cabinet minister in the Mamata Banerjee government, Adhikari is miffed with the TMC leadership. If sources are to be believed, Adhikari, who has upped the ante against the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC, is exploring all options before he takes a final decision on leaving the party. The decision is likely to come by next month. Sources also say that Adhikari is in talks with the BJP and has had multiple phone calls with BJP’s senior leadership in the last few weeks, while he is also exploring the possibility of forming a new political party in the state.
Adhikari, a grassroots politician, is one of the biggest leaders TMC has after Mamata Banerjee. “Suvendu Adhikari is a sharp politician. He is weighing every option available to him. He has opened his channels with the BJP and may switch to the party before the end of December if all goes well. He is also looking for assurances from the BJP that he will be given the respect that is due to him and this is most likely to be the position of the Deputy Chief Minister if the BJP comes to power in Bengal,” a source aware of the developments between BJP and Suvendu Adhikari told this correspondent.
Adhikari has also held two massive rallies in the last two weeks in East Medinipur, one in Nandigram and the other in Ramnagar, without any TMC banner or Mamata Banerjee’s face. This, according to many, was his way of testing his support among his followers as well as to show his organisational skills to the party where he is likely to go next, so that his importance is understood by that party. Adhikari has huge clout in East and West Medinipur districts, having the last say in at least 16 Assembly constituencies. Adhikari’s is a family of politicians. His father Sishir Adhikari is a three-time MP, his brother Dibyendu Adhikari is also an MP, while another brother, Soumendu Adhikari, is the chairman of the Contai Municipality in Medinipur. He has major clout in other parts of Bengal as well, including North Bengal and Purulia where, whenever he holds rallies, he gets thousands of supporters to attend these.
Suvendu Adhikari was one of the most trusted lieutenants of Mamata Banerjee and rose to prominence during the days of the land acquisition movement in Nandigram, which eventually led to the downfall of 34 years of CPM rule and the installation of Banerjee as the Chief Minister in 2011.
However, Suvendu Adhikari fell out with the present leadership of the Trinamool Congress from earlier this year, when Prashant Kishor and his political consulting company I-PAC, along with Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and MP from Diamond Harbour, Abhishek Banerjee, started to sideline him within the party. According to sources, this was done to ensure that Abhishek Banerjee’s rise in the TMC as the political heir of Mamata Banerjee was settled and there was no challenger to him.
Suvendu, ever since the last few months, has stopped attending Cabinet meetings called by the Chief Minister. He has also been holding multiple rallies in Medinipur without the TMC flag or banners with the face of Mamata Banerjee, thus signalling that all was not well between him and the TMC.
Adhikari’s supporters have been putting up posters and banners across multiple districts in Bengal with the slogan and photo of Adhikari which says “Amra Dadar Anugami”–we are Dada’s followers. Even these posters and banners do not have any place for the TMC symbol or the face of Mamata Banerjee. Adhikari held a mega rally in East Medinipur district on Thursday, without the TMC flag or CM Mamata Banerjee’s cut-out. While holding his cards close to his chest, Adhikari said at the rally that he was not a part-time politician and that leaders within the party have differences and differences lead to separation. He, however, did not say anything about his next political move, but rather said that he was still a member of the TMC and a Cabinet Minister and that he had not yet resigned nor had the TMC thrown him out; therefore, he would choose a political platform at the right time to inform his supporters.
The TMC is, however, trying to placate Suvendu Adhikari. At least two senior MPs and senior leaders of the TMC have been appointed with the task of mollifying him. Even Mamata Banerjee’s political advisor Prashant Kishor visited Adhikari’s home in Medinipur to meet him. Sources say that Adhikari was not home and did not meet Kishor, who met Adhikari’s father Sishir Adhikari instead, before returning. Observers from Bengal say that Adhikari and the TMC have reached a point of no return and that it is only a matter of time before Adhikari announces his exit from TMC. Commentators from Bengal say that Adhikari would be TMC’s biggest loss and would benefit whichever party he goes to, since he would be taking along with him several TMC workers, MLAs and municipalities that are under his direct control, which is why the TMC is trying to bring him back to the party mainstream. The TMC has officially not criticised Adhikari for any of his activities till now. The only statement that has come from the TMC is: “He is a very senior leader of the party and also a Cabinet minister in the government. As an individual, he has the right to hold rallies.”