Mamata's Aide to Her Rival in Nandigram: How Suvendhu Adhikari's BJP Jump Added Drama to Bengal Polls

·2-min read

Bengal awaits results for crucial polls tomorrow. While the battle remained tough between Mamata’s TMC and the BJP, exit poll meters have inclined towards the Mamata-side only. Among several contests that grabbed the eyeballs in Bengal was battlefield Nandigram. A TMC fort, Nandigram had freinds-turned-foes, Mamata and Suvendu Adhikari locking horns. Adhikar was a minister in Mamata government but made headlines in November last year when he jumped the ship and joined the ranks of BJP. A former TMC heavyweight, faced party supremo Banerjee in the high octane battle in Nandigram of Bengal’s Purbo Medinipur district.

Adhikari was the TMC’s incharge for Purulia, Jhargram, Murshidabad, Malda, East Midnapore, West Midnapore, Bankura and Bishnupur districts. In 2019, the TMC lost nine of the 13 Lok Sabha seats in this region.

Nandigram is considered as a strong bastion of rebel TMC leader Adhikari, where during 2007-11 he was Mamata’s general on the ground in the fight against “forcible” land acquisition by the then Left Front government for setting up a Special Economic Zone. Suvendu was a key man behind Banerjee’s agitation which helped her end the 34-year Left Front rule in Bengal. Over the years, Mamata also gave due respect to him and his family members for their dedication towards the party. Adhikari is the son of veteran political leader and three-time MP Sishir Adhikari.

His effort to strengthen TMC in the ‘Rarh’ region didn’t go unnoticed. From Member of Parliament, to state minister, to chairperson of co-operative banks – Mamata rewarded him for his struggle in Nandigram.

However, before quitting as the minister for transport and irrigation, Adhikari had been at loggerheads with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and had not been attending state cabinet meetings. On December 2, he reportedly expressed his dismay through a WhatsApp message to party MP Saugata Roy over details of the meeting (to resolve the differences between him and the party) being leaked to the media claiming that all the ‘issues’ were resolved. Adhikari had also vocally opposed the role given to poll strategist Prashant Kishor ahead of elections.

Adhikari has a strong hold from East Midnapore to Jangalmahal, West Midnapur, Bankura and Purulia. However, his performance as TMC incharge of Purulia, Jhargram, Murshidabad, Malda, East Midnapore, West Midnapore, Bankura and Bishnupur in the 2019 parliamentary polls wasn’t as effective. The TMC lost nine Lok Sabha seats out of the 13 in these regions where Suvendu is known as a mass leader and is believed to have significant clout among the people.

Mamata, an MLA from Bhawanipore, this time took the fight from Nandigram against her former aide Adhikari.

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