Their posters and banners swear unflinching loyalty to ‘Dada’ and gush about their ‘unstoppable mass leader’. There is no overt electoral messaging, but given the ‘leader’ in question, the political undertones are hard to miss.
‘Dada’ is none other than disgruntled Trinamool Congress (TMC) veteran Suvendu Adhikari, the once-trusted Mamata Banerjee hand whose long-speculated defection from the party is now being seen as an imminent event. Over the past few days, TMC leaders have been holding inconclusive peace talks with Adhikari, whose differences with Mamata’s nephew and heir apparent Abhishek Banerjee are well known. Adhikari, 49, holds the transport portfolio in the Mamata government, but since 2019, he has been gradually stripped of key responsibilities in the TMC—allegedly at the behest of Abhishek and, to Adhikari’s chagrin, without any intervention from Mamata.
Adhikari rose to prominence with the 2007 Nandigram agitation that helped the TMC breach Left bastions.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha poll, he defeated CPI(M) heavyweight Lakshman Seth from the Tamluk seat. Soon, he emerged as a popular TMC leader, with a support base spread over East Midnapore and six other districts of Bengal.
In a not-so-subtle rebellion, Adhikari has been telling people how he had to struggle all the way up in politics, unlike many (read: Abhishek) who had it easy. Indeed, his marginalization has coincided with Abhishek’s rise in the party. After the general election setback, last year—when the TMC won 22 seats, just four more than the BJP—a rattled Mamata went by Abhishek’s advice and hired poll strategist Prashant Kishor and his Indian Political Action Committee (IPAC) to arrest the party’s decline. With Abhishek and Kishor calling the shots, sidelined leaders like Adhikari felt their future in the TMC was sealed.
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