Updated: March 24, 2021 2:28:52 pm
Veteran Trinamool Congress MP Sisir Adhikari, the father of TMC-turned-BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari, joined the BJP in the presence of Home Minister Amit Shah in Egra in West Bengal’s Purba Medinipur district on Sunday (March 21).
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee described the Adhikari family as “Mir Jafar” — a reference to the commander of the army of Siraj-ud-daullah who betrayed the nawab by joining hands with the British East India Company at the Battle of Plassey in 1757 — and called herself a “big donkey” (“boro gadha”) for having failed to recognise their “true face” sooner.
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Who is Sisir Adhikari, MP from Kanthi?
Over the last two decades, the Adhikari family has dominated the politics of Purba Medinipur and surrounding districts, repeatedly winning Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha seats in the area, and building a solid base for the Trinamool there and beyond in the state.
Sisir Adhikari, 79, is the patriarch of the family, and is now in his third term in Lok Sabha, having represented the Kanthi seat for the TMC continuously since 2009. He was Minister of State for Rural Development in the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Sisir became Member of the West Bengal Assembly from Kanthi Dakshin in 2001.
He moved to Egra in 2006, and continued to represent the seat until 2009, when he went to Lok Sabha. Before becoming MLA, he was chairman of Contai Municipality for more than 25 years.
A powerful family in Medinipur
Sisir Adhikari has three sons — Suvendu, 49, Dibyendu, 43, and the youngest, Soumendu.
Suvendu is the best known, and politically the most high-profile. He crossed over to the BJP earlier this year, and is considered to be an extremely valuable acquisition by the saffron party.
He will challenge Mamata Banerjee at the high-voltage election in Nandigram.
Suvendu showed his ability for political organisation early, first entering the West Bengal Assembly in 2006, and then winning the Tamluk Lok Sabha seat in 2009 and again in 2014.
In 2016, he quit Parliament to become an important minister in Mamata’s government.
Dibyendu won Assembly elections in 2009, 2011, and 2016 before winning the Lok Sabha by-election for the Tamluk seat vacated by Suvendu. Dibyendu was re-elected MP from Tamluk in 2019.
Soumendu was chairman of the Kanthi Municipal Corporation, and followed Suvendu to the BJP soon afterward.
Many believe that the Adhikaris, especially Suvendu, have the popularity and organisational muscle to influence the election results in a large chunk of seats in the West Bengal Assembly, and could be the engine that would power the BJP to victory in the elections.
Nandigram, Suvendu, and after
Suvendu’s rise began after Mamata’s Nandigram movement in Purba Medinipur in 2007, which he closely coordinated on the ground. The Nandigram agitation played a powerful role in ending the Left Front’s 34-year-rule in the Assembly election of 2011.
Mamata was impressed, and over the years that followed, she gave respect and importance to Suvendu and his family, and rewarded them for their dedication to the TMC.
Suvendu rapidly strengthened the organisation of the party and increased his own clout beyond Purba Medinipur. He came to have significant influence in the three districts of Jangalmahal — Bankura, Purulia, and Paschim Medinipur — apart from his home turf of Purba Medinipur.
These four districts together have nine Lok Sabha and 63 Assembly seats, and Suvendu is believed to be in a position to influence election outcomes in 20-30 of them.
Mamata entrusted Suvendu with the responsibility of being the TMC’s observer in many parts of the state, primarily in Jangalmahal, Malda, and Murshidabad. He is influential in the party’s organisation in South Bengal, especially in the Haldia port area, and among the trade unions in the Haldia industrial area.
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