Twin Meetings of Nandigram Add to Speculation Over Subhendu Adhikary's Political Fate Ahead of 2021 Bengal Polls

File photo of Subhendu Adhikary.

File photo of Subhendu Adhikary.

Adhikary's comments in Nandigram on Tuesday, coming in the backdrop of speculation of whether he is planning to quit TMC to join the BJP ahead of the 2021 state polls, added to the buzz.

Sougata Mukhopadhyay

“Let us meet in the arena of politics and fight it out there. Subhendu Adhikary fears no one. But I will not talk politics from this holy platform of martyrs.”

These words from Trinamool Congress’s most enigmatic leader of current times, Subhendu Adhikary, at a commemorative platform in Nandigram on Tuesday gave a clear indication of the Bengal Transport Minister’s disillusionment with the current ruling dispensation. Or, at least, with a significant part of it.

This, coming in the backdrop of fervent speculation of whether Adhikary is planning to quit TMC to join the BJP and perhaps deal the deadliest blow to the party ahead of the 2021 state polls given his ever-increasing popularity on his home turf and beyond, only added to the buzz.

The TMC retort, which came on the same day, was also indicative of the fact that the party wasn’t quite prepared to extend an olive branch to Adhikary.

It was in Nandigram in East Midnapore district where a bloody siege began in March 2007 against the erstwhile Left regime’s land acquisition misadventure, ultimately catapulting Mamata Banerjee to power four years later. In November that year, Nandigram witnessed a second round of violence between the TMC-backed local population and the ousted CPI-M supporters from the area who returned to recapture lost territory. The event was hailed by Left front chairman Biman Bose as the “new dawn” of Nandigram.

“I am not new to Nandigram. I do not need to flash my identity here. But you’ve suddenly remembered Nandigram after 13 years? Will you come back to this place once the elections are over?” Adhikary asked at Tekhali, one of Nandigram’s major flashpoints of 2007, from the “apolitical” platform of the Anti-Land Grab Committee that had led the violent resistance of November 2007 and has since been observing the day in the region in memory of those who allegedly fell to bullets of the state police and gun-toting CPI-M cadres and an even greater number who remain missing till date.

Eyewitnesses to the programme confirm that the turnout at Adhikary’s public meet, which was devoid of any mention of Banerjee in its campaign banners, posters and flexes, broke all records of previous years and the space for the meeting wasn’t enough to accommodate the thousands who had gathered to listen to him.

Adhikary’s questions were evidently aimed at the TMC leadership based in Kolkata and who were suddenly headed for Nandigram after all these years, ahead of the upcoming state polls, to observe the day separately under the party’s banner for the first time in 13 years. The task of addressing the second meeting at Nandigram on Tuesday fell to minister and Kolkata Municipal Corporation chief Firhad Hakim, a trusted hand of Banerjee.

Flanked by party leaders – MPs Sisir Adhikary and Dola Sen – and state minister Purnendu Bose on the stage at Hazrakhali, Hakim tried to remind the gathering about Banerjee’s centrality to the Nandigram upsurge and hit out at the tendency of trying to project individuals over the combined contributions of many. The jibe was aimed at Adhikary although Hakim was careful enough not to name him in his speech.

“None of us exist apart. We are all workers of the Trinamool Congress. Leaving Mamata Banerjee’s hand means strengthening the hands of the BJP which is a much bigger threat to this state than what the Left ever was,” Hakim warned.

Referring to an earlier allegory which Adhikary stated some time back to describe his political journey, Hakim resorted to the same metaphors: “None of us have reached the top on helicopters. We have all climbed our stairs. But that staircase was built for us by Mamata Banerjee,” he said.

While Banerjee relayed her congratulatory message from Kolkata to the people of Nandigram and named Adhikary's father, MP Sisir Adhikary, party leaders in Nandigram justified the parallel meeting on grounds that never before was Banerjee ignored at the official programme organised by the anti-land grab committee.

It is clear that the gap between Adhikary and his party is far from having been bridged. And if the developments of Nandigran Divas are anything to go by, the cracks may just have widened a bit more.

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