Suvendu Adhikari, the heavyweight rebel from Trinamool Congress (TMC) and former cabinet minister, is all set to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to the poll-bound state later this week.
Adhikari’s aides and BJP leaders said that decks were being cleared for his formal joining. There were strong rumours that he would switch over to the challengers’ camp since the day he challenged the TMC leadership last month and peace talks failed to bridge the differences.
Shah will be in Bengal on 19 and 20 December. He will address rallies in at least three districts, including East Midnapore where Adhikari, his father and two brothers represent two Lok Sabha constituencies and an assembly seat. They run the civic body at Contai, their hometown. Adhikari is elected from the Nandigram seat.
“It has been decided so far that neither Shah nor party president JP Nadda will hand over the party flag to Adhikari in public to induct him into the BJP. This formality will be done by either Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh or some senior national leader,” a senior state BJP leader said on 15 December afternoon. Ghosh did not comment on the record on this.
The 50-year-old rebel TMC leader, who resigned from the cabinet last month and relinquished two administrative posts, is planning to visit Delhi on 17 December to talk to the BJP national leadership.
Senior TMC leaders said in private that Adhikari is specifically unhappy with Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee and election strategist Prashant Kishor who was roped in by the chief minister after the BJP won 18 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2019.
Adhikari made significant remarks at a non-political programme on 15 December morning. “Those who insulted me will face the same fate as Anil Basu, Benoy Konar and Laxman Seth when people cast their votes in a few months,” said Adhikari. The three CPI(M) leaders he mentioned faced electoral defeat and disciplinary action as well.
“One must remember that the land agitation at Nandigram was a people’s movement and not that of an individual or any party,” Adhikari said at the programme held to pay homage to noted freedom fighter Satish Samanta.
Adhikari’s statement was significant because it was Adhikari who steered the agitation against the acquisition of land which started after 14 villagers were killed in police firing at Nandigram on 14 March 2007. The land movement, which was held under the banner of Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC), a platform against land acquisition that even the Maoists supported secretly, helped Banerjee overthrow the Left Front government.
“Suvendu da will announce it when he joins the BJP. The TMC and Prashant Kishor will soon witness many more joining the BJP because of the policies being followed by the ruling party,” said Kanishka Panda, an aide of Adhikari who was expelled from the TMC two days ago. He was the TMC’s general secretary in East Midnapore.
Suvendu Adhikari’s followers are elected from several assembly segments not only in East Midnapore but other districts as well. He was the TMC’s election observer in several districts including Murshidabad where Muslims are in majority.