Can Mamata Banerjee hold on to ‘adhikar’ sans Adhikari in West Bengal?

With the resignation of Trinamool Congress’ Suvendhu Adhikari from the West Bengal cabinet, Mamata Banerjee will face many hurdles ahead as elections get closer
Can Mamata Banerjee hold on to ‘adhikar’ sans Adhikari in West Bengal?
Suvendhu Adhikari and Mamata Banerjee

In a major jolt to Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, senior and founder member of the party — Suvendhu Adhikari — has resigned from Mamata Banerjee ministry. The cold war was brewing for some time for now and the question remaining is if Adhikari will quit the party and join hands with BJP.

The Rise and Rise of Suvendhu

Suvendhu Adhikari helped Mamata Banerjee catapult to power in 2011 with the huge Nandigram movement against the ruling left govt in 2007. Starting their political journey with the Congress party, the powerful Adhikari family left Congress to join TMC when Mamata parted ways with her parent party. Suvendhu was seen as the right-hand man of Mamata — a trusted lieutenant for all seasons.

With a firm grip on party affairs in at least seven districts of West Bengal — that includes East and West Midnapore, Murshidabad, Malda, Purulia, Bankura and Birbhuam — and his direct contact with party workers in these districts proved that Suvendhu Adhikari is a mass leader.

In turn, Mamata Banerjee gave him an opportunity to represent TMC in Loksabha in 2009 and 2014. In 2016 Assembly Elections, he contested from Nandigram and became part of the Mamata cabinet in West Bengal. Moreover, he was rewarded with Member of Parliament seats for his father and brother. His other brother is a Municipal Chairman with the TMC. Until now, Suvendhu was hailed as the successor to Mamata Banerjee.

Prasanth Kishore advised that an individual in Trinamool Congress shouldn’t hold so much control in several districts. Gradually Suvendhu Adhikari started losing party grip in his strongholds

Change of Hearts

Equations started changing after Mamata’s nephew Abhishekh Banerjee slowly occupying the space next to Mamata. Still, Suvendhu could hold his fort within the party. Prasanth Kishore (PK) was handed over the election management of TMC and PK had his own plans. Very soon, Mamata started moving the way PK directed.

Prasanth advised that an individual in the party shouldn’t hold so much control in several districts. Gradually Suvendhu started losing party grip in his strongholds. This irked Suvendhu and for the past few months, he was seen conducting several rallies sans the party flag and face of Mamata Banerjee.

The huge crowds that gathered gave more confidence to Suvendhu to steer his own course. First, he resigned as Chairman of Hoogly River Bridge Commission and yesterday as Minister of Transport, Irrigation and Water Resources.

BJP sees this as an opportunity to get Suvendhu into its folds. Suvendhu's stronghold has a large number of the Muslim population. He is aware of this equation and he must be weighing the options

The Road Ahead

BJP sees this as an opportunity to get Suvendhu into its folds. They have already rolled out a red carpet for Suvendhu. BJP in West Bengal has rich cadres in its ranks and votes in its kitty. What they lack are good leaders. After Mukul Roy, a mass leader like Suvendhu joining them will be a shot in the arm for the party.

However, whether Suvendhu will extend his arms towards BJP is to be seen. His stronghold region has a large number of the Muslim population, even a majority in Malda and Murshidabad. Suvendhu is aware of this equation and he must be weighing the options. It is a big question if his Muslim supporters will stand with him if he joins BJP.

Congress is also trying to woo him back to the party. TMC has not lost hope and last-minute talks are going on through various channels. The best possible scenario is a new regional party floated by Suvendhu and he may decide about an alliance in due course.

If Suvendhu decides to leave TMC then Mamata Banerjee needs to worry. With Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majilis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen deciding to field candidates in West Bengal, it is not going to be a cakewalk for Mamata and TMC as it was in the past decade.

The opinion piece is written by Lt Cdr. Gokul Chandran (R)

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