In a significant political development, no one from disgruntled TMC leader Suvendu Adhikari’s family will attend Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s mega rally in his turf East Midnapore on Monday, as tensions between the two continue to soar over the organizational structure of the Trinamool Congress.
While Adhikari’s brother, TMC MP Dibyendu, is in Delhi, his father Sisir -- also an MP -- had a minor leg surgery a few days ago and doctors had advised him to take complete rest. Meanwhile, Adhikari’s supporters have claimed that the rebel leader does not want to share the dais with CM Banerjee at her College Math’s rally.
On Sunday, the TMC supremo had visited Midnapore town to address a public rally. Monday’s mammoth gathering in Adhikari’s home turf would be crucial at a time when the party is facing a crisis over his seemingly soured ties the Chief Minister.
Besides Midnapore, Banerjee is set to address rallies in Bongaon, North 24 Parganas on Wednesday and will begin her two-day visit to North Bengal, where the BJP had managed to make deep inroads in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, from December 14 onwards.
Adhikari is seen as the Trinamool Congress’ lieutenant in Nandigram and the face of the anti-land acquisition tide that catapulted Banerjee to power back in 2011. Adhikari had also won the Tamluk Lok Sabha seat in 2009 after defeating CPI(M) strongman Lakshman Seth by 1.73 lakh votes.
Over the past few months, Adhikari has been addressing rallies without using the TMC party symbols and flags. In all these rallies, a sea of people claiming to be ‘amra dadar anugami’ (followers of elder brother) were seen marching behind the former state transport minister.
On November 27, Adhikari had raised political temperatures by resigning from Banerjee’s cabinet as the state's transport and irrigation minister. However, he did not resign from the Assembly and remains an MLA.
His resignation was being speculated as the beginning of his exit from the party. Even his meeting with TMC MPs Abhishek Banerjee, Sougata Roy and Sudip Bandhopadhyay and election strategist Prashant Kishor failed to yield any positive results.
Following his decision to not work for the TMC any more, Banerjee dialled his father, asking him to rein in anti-party activities. She also asked him to remove all the district leaders who are close to Adhikari.
She had also said that party leaders, who are in touch with the BJP, are free to leave TMC. In recent months more than 200 party leaders were show-caused in West and East Midnapore.
Not the least, following Adhikari's differences with Banerjee, the government has lifted security for all those leaders who are close to Suvendu.
As Adhikari is yet to reveal his card, political experts feel that Banerjee wants to target his might in the districts like West Midnapore, East Midnapore, Purulia, Jhargram, Bankura, Malda and Murshidabad.
“Our main focus is in West and East Midnapore. We are working on bringing new local leaders in the front who are actively working for the party to counter Adhikari's ‘anugami’ (followers). We are in talks with several local leaders who are with him and some of them who are influential have agreed to work for Didi," said a senior leader who did not wish to be named.
“Suvendu will not be a factor for us in the upcoming assembly polls in 2021 as he miserably failed to perform in the last Lok Sabha. He is trying to create a hype to bargain more," he said.
“We knew that he would not share the dais with Didi. So, there is no question of getting shock over his absence. His father Sisir is having a genuine problem, while Dibyendu is in Delhi. It is unfortunate that a party leader like Adhikari is behaving like this. Didi has given all due respect to him. From their family, Didi made two MPs and one state minister besides chairperson of various co-operative banks and boards. What else does Adhikari want from TMC? People in Bengal will give him a befitting reply,” he added.
The TMC lost nine Lok Sabha seats out of the 13 in the Midnapore region, where Adhikari is believed to have significant clout among the people in Purulia, Jhargram, Murshidabad, Malda, East Midnapore, West Midnapore, Bankura and Bishnupur.
The BJP on its own managed to win a significant seven seats (two seats including Berhampur and Malda South went to the Congress), making inroads into these districts without Adhikari.