Will he stay or will he go? This question is hanging over Suvendu Adhikari — the powerful Trinamool leader and minister whose discontent with the party is now an open secret. Mr Adhikari will address a public rally on Thursday at Ramnagar in East Midnapore district. Will he make the big announcement there? Or perhaps not, as over the last couple of days, he has met with two senior Trinamool MPs who reached out to him after being instructed to do so by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee herself.
Mr Adhikari has made no secret of the thorn in his flesh, say sources, in his talks with the senior MPs Sougata Roy and Sudip Bandopadhyay: the authority Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee wields in the party and his growing association with poll strategist Prashant Kishor.
At a recent rally at Nandigram, Mr Adhikari took a swipe at Abhishek. “I have neither arrived here by parachute nor come up by an elevator,” Mr Adhikari said, “I have reached here by climbing the stairs, step by step by step.”
Prashant Kishor travelled 150 km from Kolkata to meet him at his home at Kanthi in East Midnapore district on 12 November. Mr Adhikari was not at home and did not return till after Prashant Kishor headed back to Kolkata.
The Importance Of Being Suvendu Adhikari
No disputing that Mr Adhikari has come up the ranks on hard work. Son of a Congressman who joined Mamata Banerjee when she started Trinamool and is currently a party MP, Mr Adhikari began as a municipal councilor, was elected MLA in 2006 from Dakshin Kanthi in East Midnapore district and made his mark in 2007 at Nandigram as key mover behind the anti-land acquisition campaign there.
In 2009, he fought the Lok Sabha election from the Tamluk seat and defeated CPM strongman Lakshman Seth by a resounding 1.70 lakh votes. He was given charge of the Maoist riddled West Midnapore district and CPM bastions, Purulia and Bankura, and he delivered in 2011.
Midway through his second term as MP, Mamata Banerjee put him in charge of the party in other districts, including Malda and Murshidabad — both Congress dominated. Again, Mr Adhikari delivered, winning municipalities and panchayat bodies. In 2016, he was elected as an MLA from Nandigram and made minister with multiple portfolios, including transport.
But recent tweaks in the party chain of command have reportedly “disillusioned” him. After the loss of 18 Lok Sabha seats in 2019, many of them steered by Abhishek Banerjee, Mamata Banerjee did clip his wings. But since then, the roping in of Prashant Kishore has again increased Abhishek’s clout.
And Suvendu Adhikari is not happy, clearly.
The Trinamool is making an attempt to woo him and retain him in the party. Mr Adhikari’s exit could hurt in some say as many as 45-40 seats. But signals from the party suggest it is not willing to bend over backwards to keep him happy.
The Ramnagar meeting tomorrow could be key. The local Trinamool MLA Akhil Giri is a severe Adhikari critic. But the rally is officially being held to mark the Cooperative Movement week. Mr Adhikari has a big role in that movement and he may not want to use that platform to make a political announcement.
At a rally on November 10, he had thrown the gauntlet saying, “We will meet on the battlefield. We will meet on a political stage.” But when and where remains uncertain though the “if” element is fast disappearing.