A day after the popular Trinamool Congress leader Suvendu Adhikari resigned as chairman of Hooghly River Bridge Commission, sources in the BJP said he would join their party soon.
Adhikari put further distance between the TMC and himself on Friday, resigning as the West Bengal Minister for Transport, Irrigation and Water Resources, and Chairman of Haldia Development Authority. He also gave up his official state government security.
“It (Adhikari joining BJP) is going to happen. Now that he has quit the (Mamata Banerjee) government, joining the BJP will be the natural course of action,” a senior leader of the party told The Indian Express in Delhi on Friday evening.
Adhikari, son of the Trinamool MP from Kanthi, Sisir Adhikari, and himself a two-term Lok Sabha MP, has been in touch with BJP leaders for some time now, sources in the party in Delhi said.
The sources also indicated that Adhikari could be only one of several Trinamool leaders who would likely cross over to the BJP ahead of elections in West Bengal next year. The term of the state Assembly ends on May 30.
Negotiations with at least two more ministers in the Mamata Cabinet are “almost final”, the BJP sources said. One of these ministers is demanding a seat and a position for his daughter in the BJP, but the other will take a decision any time now, the sources said.
One of these two ministers especially, has a very “clean” image, BJP leaders said, and predicted that Mamata would be “crippled” once this leader and Adhikari both join the BJP.
The TMC MLA from Cooch Behar Dakshin, Mihir Goswami joined the BJP in Delhi on Friday. The MLA, who resigned from the TMC hours before switching, said he looked forward to a “new era” of politics in West Bengal led by the BJP.
“I feel very happy to announce that I have today joined as a member of BJP. I have also resigned from the TMC today. I would like to call it a crusade against the immoral and incorrect happenings in our state… (and) I look forward to a new era of politics in Bengal in line with the vision of our beloved Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Goswami said.
In the understanding of BJP sources in Delhi, Adhikari is perhaps the “last leader with tremendous mass support on his own” in the TMC; most of the others rely on Mamata’s popularity and influence to win elections.
“Suvendu Adhikari can influence votes in at least 40 Assembly constituencies in six districts. His entry into the BJP will be a big boost for the party in the Assembly elections,” a BJP leader said.
Lateral entry of influential leaders into its ranks is key for the BJP ahead of the polls that are now just months away. “It will take the BJP years to win elections after building its cadre from the ground,” the leader said. “The TMC’s violent and vindictive politics has created an atmosphere of fear, and even our existing cadre are either frightened or are unable to work freely. Getting influential and efficient leaders who would paralyse the TMC while strengthening the BJP is the only option we have,” the leader said.
In Kolkata, TMC leaders said the party remained open to negotiations to address Adhikari’s grievances. While Adhikari himself was not available for a comment, both his father Sisir, and brother Dibyendu Adhikari, the Lok Sabha MP from Tamluk, said on Friday that they were still with Mamata Banerjee. Sisir and Dibyendu did confirm, however, that Suvendu was unhappy with statements issued by a section of Trinamool leaders.
“I am in the Trinamool Congress. What I have heard is that he (Suvendu) has told his personal circle that a section of leaders in the party were jealous because he held many posts. So, by resigning from all posts, he wants to send a clear message to these people,” Sisir Adhikari told The Indian Express. “He (Suvendu) feels hurt by personal attacks and unwanted statements given against him by a section (of the party).”
Suvendu is the TMC’s MLA from Kanthi Dakshin, and remains a primary member of the party. His brother Dibyendu said he was “so far” with the TMC, but must have good reasons for leaving his posts in government.
“He (Suvendu) is a mass leader and a leader of great stature. It is his decision to resign. There must be some solid reason behind it. But so far he is with the party as an MLA and as a member. So am I. I am with Mamata Banerjee,” Dibyendu told The Indian Express.
Senior TMC leader and the party’s Lok Sabha MP from Dum Dum Prof Sougata Ray also underlined that Adhikari was still with the party.
Also Read BJP MP’s reaction | ‘Suvendu should not stay with TMC even a minute more’
“He has not left the party. It is his personal decision to resign as minister. What he will do in future is also his decision. But he is still with Trinamool Congress. He had some reservations, and talks were on. I think the door for talks have not been closed,” Ray said.
On Cooch Behar MLA Goswami’s switch to the BJP, Ray said: “Party leaders including (Minister for North Bengal Development) Rabindranath Ghosh held discussions with him (requesting him to stay). But if anyone wants to leave the party, then it is their personal decision. We have to strongly face these challenges.”
State Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee said he would be “happy” if Suvendu Adhikari stayed on in the TMC. “However”, Mukherjee said, “a party does not stand for one person, but for lakhs of workers and leaders. The party will not be affected if one person leaves. We have Mamata Banerjee.”
The West Bengal BJP welcomed Adhikari’s resignation as minister, and predicted the Trinamool’s days in power were numbered.
“This is the beginning of Trinamool Congress’s end in Bengal. No one is happy under autocratic rule. Not even ministers and leaders. We have been hearing for some time now that he (Suvendu) is going to leave. Suvendu is welcome in the BJP, and he will be given due respect. If he leaves the Trinamool Congress, one by one all youth leaders will leave too,” state BJP president Dilip Ghosh told reporters.
In Delhi, Kailash Vijayvargiya, BJP general secretary in charge of West Bengal, said: “It is now clear that the arrogance of Mamata Banerjee and the corruption of her nephew (MP from Diamond Harbour Abhishek Banerjee) has started upsetting party leaders. This is just the beginning, and more leaders will quit the TMC. No leader with self respect can continue in that party.”
Vijayvargiya, who was also present at Goswami’s induction into the party, told The Indian Express that Adhikari had been pressing Mamata to rein in Abhishek. “I am aware that Suvendu Adhikari has been telling Mamataji to stop her bhaipo (nephew)… His resignation from the government shows that he was not able to convince her,” Vijayvargiya said.
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