A nearly 20 s long video clip of West Bengal Correctional Administration Minister Akhil Giri surfaced today, where he can be heard saying: “They (BJP) said that I am not good-looking. We don’t judge anyone by their appearance. We respect the office of the President. But how does our president look?”
Trinamool Congress’s Giri made the comment late last evening at a rally in Nandigram, also Suvendu Adhikari’s backyard.
Outside West Bengal, not much was so far known about the Trinamool Congress minister, whose offensive remarks about President Droupadi Murmu embarrassed his party, forcing him to apologise. He says he was provoked by the BJP Leader of Opposition in the West Bengal assembly, Suvendu Adhikari.
Ironically, Giri is an uncle of Adhikari. A Trinamool Congress-turned-BJP leader, Adhikari had a maternal aunt who was married to Giri.
Adhikari tweeted after his uncle’s remark: “As Hon’ble Governor Shri La. Ganesan Ji is currently out of State, Bengal BJP MLAs have sought an urgent appointment to meet him regarding the sacking of Minister Akhil Giri. He has lost the moral authority to continue as minister after his derogatory remark on the Hon’ble President.”
Giri, however, has apologised for his remarks after severe backlash and outrage. The Bengal minister also issued a video statement, saying he regretted his remark, which was an outburst of anger over continuous attacks on him.
“Just like I have respect for the country’s Constitution, I also respect the president of India, who is the Head of the state. But over the last few days, the kind of remarks made by BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari against me and my looks has left me humiliated and fuming. I am an old man, and by mistake, I have made a remark in an emotional outburst of my anger. I regret making such a remark,” the Trinamool Congress MLA said.
Akhil Giri, who?
Akhil Giri studied up to Class 12 and began his political life as an activist of Chhatra Parishad, the name that the student wing of the Indian National Congress uses instead of the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) in West Bengal. Giri joined the Youth Congress in District East Midnapore later, where he drew close to Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, who was then a fellow Youth Congress activist.
Giri was a lieutenant in Banerjee’s internal feud with INC leader Soumen Mitra, one of the three regional biggies in the party during Jyoti Basu’s rule. The other two were Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, who went on to be a minister in the UPA government, and Pranab Mukherjee, who was among the top ministers in that dispensation but later became the president of the country.
It is common knowledge in Bengal political circles that ‘conspiracies’ by the Mitra-Dasmunshi-Mukherjee trio to sabotage the INC’s campaigns against the CPI(M)-led Left Front government frustrated Banerjee who quit the party in 1998 to form her own Trinamool Congress, the party that came to be identified as the real anti-communist force in the state at a time when the BJP was hardly interested in West Bengal.
Giri was among the first leaders from Midnapore (Medinipur) who walked out of the INC with Banerjee. The Adhikari family, including patriarch Sisir and his son Suvendu, joined the party later. Suvendu Adhikari had begun his political career in the INC. He moved to the Trinamool Congress at the time of the Nandigram rising against the rule of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the successor of Basu who had invited the notorious Salem group to develop the town by first taking away the land of the poor inhabitants of the backwaters of Medinipur.
As the Adhikari father and son rose through the ranks of the Trinamool Congress, Giri maintained a little distance from the kin, unlike other Trinamool Congress members in Midnapore.
Banerjee once again paid attention to Giri and Soumen Mahapatra as her party’s faces in East Midnapore when Suvendu Adhikari quit the Trinamool Congress for the BJP in December 2020 and the other Adhikaris followed suit.
In the 2021 assembly election, Giri won with a big margin from Ramnagar, earning him a seat in Banerjee’s cabinet. Giri first got the fisheries ministry and then was moved to the correctional administration department.
Since his appointment as minister, Giri’s only son Suprakash has been rising to prominence in the party, now considered an important youth leader of East Midnapore.
Giri hardly made news until this remark against President Droupadi Murmu. He is known in East Midnapore as a “good organiser” and an “honest politician”, who enjoys a connection with people.
A senior Trinamool Congress leader of Midnapore said sometimes while talking in the local dialect, “he gets carried away”. He denied claims by some that Giri may have made the remarks to seek attention. “Giri is very low-profile,” his colleague said.