Two days after rebel Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Suvendu Adhikari resigned from the cabinet, chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and Lok Sabha member Abhishek Banerjee on Sunday targeted the heavyweight leader at his first election rally even as TMC held two rallies in Adhikari’s turf in East Midnapore.
Assembly election is due in West Bengal in the first half of next year.
“Mamata Banerjee was not made in a day. Do not belittle her. A lot of people laid down their lives for the TMC. No TMC worker went up in an elevator or descend in a parachute,” Banerjee said during an aggressive speech in his constituency Diamond Harbour.
“Had I descended in a parachute I would have held 35 portfolios. I would have contested the polls from south Kolkata, where I live. The party sent me to Diamond Harbour, where I had to start from scratch,” he said.
Though Banerjee did not name anyone it was apparent who his target was since it was Adhikari who, while addressing a rally in East Midnapore on November 10, said, “I am known to all as someone who worked on the ground. Neither did I go up in an elevator nor did I descend in a parachute.”
Incidentally, Adhikari is known for holding important positions. On Thursday night, he resigned from the post of chairman of the Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners and on Friday he quit the Haldia Development Authority where he was the chairman. Apart from transport, Adhikari was also in charge of water resources investigation and development and irrigation and waterways.
Sunday’s rally was held at Satgachhia which is part of the Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha segment. This was Banerjee’s first public meeting in eight months.
“Will you spare someone who betrays the mother of the party? Will you spare someone who pursues personal ambition and betrays the party? Will you accept it if someone spreads canards and becomes the stooge of a rival party,” Banerjee shouted at the TMC workers amid loud applause.
Senior TMC leaders had earlier this month told this correspondent that Adhikari is particularly unhappy with organizational decisions taken by the Abhishek Banerjee and election strategist Prashant Kishor who was roped in after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 18 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2019. On November 10, Adhikari threw a veiled challenge at the leadership. “I am not afraid of anyone. We will meet in the battlefield,” he said without naming anyone or even the TMC.
Differences between Adhikari and the TMC leadership widened after he wanted the party to field candidates of his choice in 65 assembly seats spread across several districts. This is unacceptable to the leadership.
The TMC held two back-to-back rallies at Haldia and Kanthi in East Midnapore on Sunday in a bid to send a strong message to Adhikari and local party workers. Incidentally, the TMC rallies were led by ministers who are younger than most members of the cabinet.
“An attempt is being made to divide Bengal. But we will not let that happen. Mamata Banerjee grew up through peoples’ movements,” minister Sujit Bose said at the rally in Haldia. Another minister, Rajib Banerjee, said, “This rally could not have been so successful had people not been with us. Mamata Banerjee has stood the test of time and people have faith in her.”
The TMC rally at Kanthi was addressed by minister Bratya Basu. “I do not want to comment on Adhikari as he is there in the party,” Basu said on the sidelines of the rally.
Adhikari was in Mahishadal in the East Midnapore on Sunday. He addressed a public meeting held in the memory of freedom fighter Ranajit Kumar Boyal who died on November 13 at the age of 94.
Though he did not make any political statement, Adhikari ended his speech saying, “People have the last word. I will work for the people and always remain accountable to them.”