“I have not been dropped from a parachute nor have taken a lift to climb up. I have made the hard way up, climbing the stairs.” These recent statements by Trinamool Congress minister Suvendu Adhikari have triggered lot of speculation and debate in the political circles of West Bengal.
Not many leaders of the Trinamool Congress, which has been ruling the State for nine years, can make such claims. One of most common phrases used by both party leaders and political observers about the Trinamool Congress power hierarchy is “There is only one post and rest are lamp posts” implying that only party chairperson Mamata Banerjee matters in the scheme of things.
But even the sharpest critics of Mr. Adhikari will admit that there is some substance to his claims. Only a few days back, addressing another public gathering, Mr. Adhikari said he did not need a post to serve the people.
It is not only his statements that have created discomfort for Trinamool Congress but the very nature of his public meetings which has drawn everyone’s attention. There are no flags of ruling Trinamool Congress at these events or photographs or cut outs of Ms. Banerjee. These rallies have the Trinamool strongman supporters wearing t- shirts with a message Amra Dadar Anugaami (We are supporters of Dada). Posters with the same message have come up in Purba Medinipur area over the past few weeks extending greetings to the people after Durga Puja. These developments come after months of his absence from administrative and political meetings of the Trinamool Congress.
The message which Mr. Adhikari is trying to give is clearly that even without the banner of Trinamool Congress he has a support base of his own and can make or break elections for any combination. The Trinamool leader, however, is keeping his cards close to his chest. He has not made any remarks targeting the party leadership or said anything referring to Ms. Banerjee. He is also completely silent on the prospects of warming up to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or floating an outfit of his own.
Mr. Adhikari, has been with Ms. Banerjee from the very start of the Trinamool Congress. He played a crucial and deciding role in the Nandigram movement when the struggle against forcible land acquisition by farmers in Purba Medinipur district rattled the Left Front government in 2007-08.
He has been elected to Lok Sabha and now holds the portfolio of State’s Transport Department.
His father Sisir Adhikari and brother Dibyendu Adhikari are Lok Sabha MPs from the district.
The BJP leadership in the State has gone on record saying that he is welcome to join them. “As a youth leader I will urge him to join us and work for the people,” Soumitra Khan BJP MP and president of State’s Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha said. The BJP State unit president Dilip Ghosh and party national vice president Mukul Roy has also welcomed Mr Adhikari to the saffron party.
His support is not limited only to Purba Medinipur district but also to parts of southwestern part of the State referred to Jangalmahal and other districts of south Bengal, where he assigned the responsibility to strengthen the party’s organisational base. Defections and factional feuds have emerged as the story of politics of West Bengal over the past several years and Mr. Adhikari’s next move is likely to an impact on the outcome of 2021 Assembly polls.