A bitter rift within the Trinamool Congress top leadership is showing more sharply than ever as the party hunts for reasons after its shock defeat in Haldia. The municipality is next door to Nandigram,which is symbolic to the partys having coming to power in the state in the first place.
One section of the leadership has been attributing the defeat to the growing arrogance of Suvendu Adhikari,the party MP from Tamluk,and his alienation from the grassroots. He had been given the charge of the polls here.
The other section,loyal to the Adhikari family,has countered that the defeat was due to nominations being given to veteran extortionists. These extortionists have been with the Trinamool since 1998 but also thrived because of an alleged collusion with Lakshman Seth,CMP MP now in jail,and his aides. The Adhikari camp says they are now flourishing with the blessings of some Kolkata-based top Trinamool leaders.
By Kolkata-based leaders they mean mainly Mukul Roy,Railway Minister,the partys organisational head and Mamata Banerjees right-hand man. They have charged Roy with undue interference in the districts politics and warned that unless that stops immediately,the party is headed for greater setbacks in East Midnapore.
The Adhikaris had been the principal architects of Mamatas inroads into Nandigram and subsequently into other parts of the region. Sishir Adhikari,the most senior leader of the family and now a minister in the UPA government,was a strong challenger to the Left even during that regimes best years in the 1980s and the 90s. His three sons have picked up the baton. The eldest is Suvendu,the MP from Tamluk now accused of arrogance,who heads the partys youth wing. Next is Dibyendu,MLA from Egra. The youngest,Soumendu,is chairman of Contai municipality.
Now the Haldia defeat has put a question mark over how much they command. This is an unwanted development, Suvendu is said to have admitted,while blaming a collusion between a corrupt faction in Haldia and the so-called Kolkata-based leaders.
The noise the Adhikaris have been making has been loud enough to reach Mamatas ears. The message they have sought to convey is that the Lakshman Seth cartel has been at work to sabotage the party. The Adhikaris say they propped nine new candidates and they all won; it was the veterans and known extortionists who lost,their cases having been pushed by the Kolkata leaders.
To stress what they call Seths continued influence,they cite efforts by these extortionists to get Mamata to attend a function at a Haldia dental college,which was a venture Seth allegedly promoted under the banner of an NGO and which is now under investigation.
The interference factor shows in Nalhati municipality too. The party won comfortably but its projected chairman,Biplab Ojha,lost both wards he had contested. Voters apparently wanted the party but had complaints of corruption against Ojha,who is said to have Mukul Roys blessings. Nalhati brought embarrassment to the Congress too. Pranab Mukherjees son Abhijit was the chief Congress strategist as the party went it alone,but Mamata proved too strong.
Mukul Roy was part of the equations in Coopers Camp,too,the only municipality other than Haldia that the Trinamool lost out of six. Here the battle was essentially between Roy and the Congress. An overconfident Roy had predicted victory and local leaders say he invested a substantial amount to ensure this. It became a prestige fight,which he lost when the entire opposition rallied behind the Congress to defeat the TMC.
The Trinamools gains were in Dhupguri and Durgapur,which it wrested from the CPM. Dhupguri,traditionally Left,had remained with the CPM even during the Assembly polls. The reversal,a clean sweep,came despite campaigning by Biman Bose himself.