At a time when the state is preparing for crucial Assembly polls next year, Suvendu Adhikari, a minister and popular leader of the Trinamool Congress, is apparently distancing himself from the party. Suvendu, who is state transport minister, has been conspicuous by his absence at party and government programmes. Also, his presence and speeches during bannerless public gatherings organised by his supporters has a different political undertone.
While Suvendu could not be reached for comment, sources said he was “unhappy” with the TMC and is trying to set up a political outfit of his own in a number of districts of Bengal.
By referring to himself as ‘Janaganer Sevak’ (servant of the people) and quoting Swami Vivekanada’s speech ‘Ami Ami Sorbonasher Mul’ (I, me and myself is the root cause of evil), he has triggered speculation both within TMC and outside.
“In 1995, I was councilor of an undivided Congress. I did not drop in using a parachute nor did I take a lift. I took the stairs, step by step. No one can stop us,” he said in his address at a function in Nandigram on Saturday that did not have political banners.
“If one wants to work for the people, no one’s permission is needed. If one wants to work for the people, there is no need for a position. I have seen that some people (leaders) were absent during the lockdown. They were not present to help migrant labourers in Kolaghat. We have to stay away from such people,” said Suvendu during a programme in Kolaghat in East Midnapore, his home district, on Thursday. The programme like many others was organised by ‘Amra Dadar Anugamira’ (We are followers of elder brother). No banners of any political party were spotted at the venue.
Youths were seen sporting white T-shirts with the logo ‘Dadar Anugami’ and Suvendu’s picture. The group has organised social programmes and rallies in the districts over the past two months.
“The person saying all this is holding on to his own post. Why doesn’t he leave his post? He [Suvendu] is trying to break the party,” said Akhil Giri, working president of TMC in East Midnapore district and MLA from Ramnagar.
On October 28, Suvendu attended a function in Digha to mark the 153rd birth anniversary of Sister Nivedita. Speaking on the occasion, he said “Swami Vivekananda has said no one can work through his own strength. He said “me and myself” [approach] is the root cause of evil. And those who say “we and ourselves” stay on.”
Observers see this as a message to his political bosses.
“He is still our party leader and a minister in the Mamata Banerjee-led state government. Mamata Banerjee is our supreme party leader. He is welcome to stay in the party that gives him due respect and responsibility. If he decides to leave, it will be his decision. People will take a call on that. However, we are prepared for anything. He will not matter much [if he is] out of the party,” said a senior TMC leader, who did not wish to be named.
Over the past few months, Suvendu has been apparently avoiding his own party programmes, government programmes and even Cabinet meetings. Instead, he toured different parts of East Midnapore, West Midnapore and Jhargram districts helping people rebuild houses in the wake of Cyclone Amphan and distributed foodgrains to poor people affected by the lockdown.
He was absent at TMC’s organisational meeting at Netaji Indoor stadium in March. On August 9, he was absent during a state government programme on International Indigenous People’s Day in Jhargram, where State Education Minister Partha Chatterjee was present. Instead, Suvendhu was spotted participating in a private programme in the same district.
On October 19, Adhikari spoke at a programme in Netai (Nine people were killed by miscreants allegedly backed by the CPM in 2011), Jhargram, and acknowledged that more attention needs to be given to the people’s woes.
“When I came here on January 7, many villagers told me they are unhappy. Villagers spoke about non-cooperation from a section of elected representatives. I will get into whether the allegation is true or false. I have done whatever I could. I gave jobs, sewing machines and built houses as much as I can,” Suvendu said.
BJP state president Dilip Ghosh has in the past said Suvendu is a popular leader and is welcome to the saffron party but observers believe that Suvendu may opt for floating a new forum or political outfit. However, according to sources, Trinamool Congress leaders are also reaching out to Suvendhu and trying to pacify him.
Suvendu and his family were at the forefront of Nandigram land agitation since 2007. He was a two-time MP from Tamluk and is now MLA from Nandigram. His father Sisir Adhikari is a Lok Sabha MP from from Kanthi constituency while his brother Dibyendu is an MP from Tamluk.
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