TMC opens back channel talks with Suvendu Adhikari, tries to pacify him

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Kolkata, Nov 17 (PTI) The ruling Trinamool Congress has opened back channel talks with rebellious minister Suvendu Adhikari and is trying to address his grievances in order to retain him in the party, sources in the party said on Tuesday.

A senior TMC leader had met Adhikari in Kolkata late on Sunday night and the two had a two-hour-long meeting.

'Lots of issues were discussed. But it is not possible to divulge the details. Two senior party MPs have been assigned by the party to be in regular touch with him,' a senior TMC leader said on condition of anonymity.

Adhikari has been maintaining distance from TMC's top leaders and has been staying away from party and cabinet meetings for the past few months.

He has been holding rallies across East Midnapore district without using either the party's banners or its supremo, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's posters.

According to party sources, the TMC top brass has been sending feelers to Adhikari for the last few days.

'The meeting between Suvendu and the senior party leader is a result of the back channel talks started by the top brass to retain him in the party,' the TMC leader said.

All eyes are now on Adhikari's scheduled programme on November 19 in East Midnapore district.

Reacting to the development, West Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said Congress will welcome Adhikari with 'open arms'.

'We will be pleased if a leader of the stature of Suvendu Adhikari joins Congress. He would never get his due in a party like the TMC,' he said.

Daggers were drawn between Adhikari and the TMC on November 10 with the former taking a dig at party colleagues for visiting Nandigram after a gap of 13 years before the 2021 state polls.

This evoked a sharp response from the TMC which hit back at Adhikari for 'helping BJP' by negating Banerjee's contributions during the anti-farmland acquisition movement.

Following the November 10 meeting, poll strategist Prashant Kishor had visited the East Midnapore residence of Adhikari on November 12 and spoke to his father, TMC MP Sisir Adhikari.

Kishor, who has been tasked with devising a strategy for TMC after the reverses faced by the party in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, wanted to meet Suvendu Adhikari but could not meet him as he was not at the house then.

Apart from East Midnapore district from where he hails, Adhikari influences about 35 assembly constituencies in West Midnapore, Bankura, Purulia, Jhargram districts and in parts of Birbhum district. This assumes significance as the state polls are due in April-May 2021 when Banerjee seeks to return to power for the third consecutive term.

State BJP president Dilip Ghosh said the party is not in touch with him.

'It is an internal matter of the TMC. But no one can be indeed happy in a party like TMC. We hope that Adhikari would clear his stand soon,' Ghosh said.

Then minister is a member of the powerful Adhikari family of East Midnapore district. His father Sisir Adhikari and younger brother Dibyendu Adhikari are TMC MPs from Tamluk and Kanthi Lok Sabha constituencies respectively. PTI PNT KK KK