Suvendu uses TMC tools to strengthen BJP
Former Trinamool leader has cemented his key position in the saffron party amid disarray
As defections, electoral setbacks and internal squabbles continue to plague the West Bengal unit of the BJP, the Leader of Opposition in State Assembly Suvendu Adhikari appears to remain undeterred and is seen regularly touring the districts of south Bengal, particularly his home turf of Purba Mednipur and the adjoining Paschim Medinipur districts.
On November 30, while addressing a gathering in his constituency Nandigram, Mr. Adhikari urged the villagers to set up a “Committee against Police Atrocities (CAPA)”. The Nandigram MLA alleged that the police excesses were going on in the region because Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had lost from the Assembly seat. Mr. Adhikari had defeated Ms Banerjee by a slender margin of 1,956 votes.
He has announced a new programme under the call “back to the villages” which will take place between December 15 and December 19, when CAPA will be set up.
For those familiar with the political history of West Bengal, CAPA is reminiscent of the resistance of the people of Nandigram against the then Communist Party of India (Marxist) government in 2007. At that time the locals had established a “Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee” (Committee against Land Evictions) against the proposed land acquisition for setting up a special economic zone (SEZ) in Nandigram.
The People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) was another committee that had come up in Lalgarh in Paschim Medinipur in 2008. Both organisations were being supported by the Trinamool Congress, and at that time Suvendu Adhikari — one of the tallest leaders of Trinamool — played a key role in leading these mass movements.
Political observers feel that the BJP leader is trying to organize mass-based resistance on similar lines which had catapulted Trinamool to power in 2011, defeating the 34-year-old Left Front government.
A few days ago, while visiting the family of deceased BJP worker Bhaskar Bera, who was allegedly killed in political violence, Mr. Adhikari promised BJP workers that he would ensure that the murder is probed by central agencies. “I am a doctor and I know what disease requires what medicine … I promise that those behind the crime will be punished… Suvendu Adhikari will ensure that this case is taken up by the CBI,” the BJP leader said.
The BJP leader has also been active in taking up legal action against the ruling party, by approaching the Calcutta High Court time and again on a host of issues including defection of elected MLAs from the BJP to TMC. Mr Adhikari’s apparent proximity to Union Home Minister Amit Shah and frequent meetings with him, has given him greater acceptance within the party.
Amidst the tumult in the West Bengal BJP, Mr. Adhikari is slowly but surely scripting his rise in the party. The BJP is also undergoing changes in the State. Dilip Ghosh, who was the key BJP leader in the Bengal for the past six years is no longer the State president. He has been replaced by the relatively unknown Sukanta Majumdar.
Leaders from the Trinamool Congress like Mukul Roy and Rajib Banerjee who had joined the BJP before the Assembly polls have returned to the Trinamool Congress. Even leaders like Babul Supriyo who were politically quite active in Bengal have defected to TMC. Of late even some of the senior BJP leaders like Tathagata Roy and Rupa Ganguly have been going public with grievances against the party.
“If the BJP gained anything from the 2021 Assembly polls it is Suvendu Adhikari. Not only does he know West Bengal like it was at the back of his hand, he is also well versed with the style of functioning of Trinamool Congress and the West Bengal government since he was one of key leaders and organizers of the party and an important minister,” political observer and professor of political science at Rabindra Bharati University Biswanath Chakraborty said.
Experts like professor Chakraborty do not see the BJP being able to turn the tide against the Trinamool Congress any time soon, but they are almost unanimous in their opinion that Mr. Adhikari has emerged as the tallest leader of the BJP in West Bengal.