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By the grace of Mamata

india Updated: Oct 16, 2009 18:56 IST
Kumkum Chadha
Kumkum Chadha
Hindustan Times
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Union Minister Sisir Kumar Adhikari worships Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee. It is difficult to say whether this is for effect or public consumption or because of fear, but at the outset he makes it clear that he is where he is today “by the grace of Mamata” and “it is only her that I must thank”.

Till she appeared on the scene, Adhikari did not think he would work for anyone, ever since he was a teenager. “I don’t believe in bosses. I cannot take orders or fetch and carry.”

Within a few days of finishing school, he had a job, thanks to the influence his family wielded in their home district East Medinipur in West Bengal. Determined not to work under anyone, Adhikari sneaked to the village pond, made paper boats out of the appointment letter and his school certificates and watched them disappear into the water.

Politics was not on the radar; yet every time the family got together, his cousin would say: “You would be a key man in society someday.” Adhikari, then a teenager, didn’t take those words seriously.

He was influenced by Marxism in his formative years, but by the time he turned 20, he joined the Congress and started off as a grassroots worker. He was elected to the state Assembly for the first time in 1982. He served three terms before contesting for Parliament this year.

Adhikari hard sells his ‘ordinary man’ image. “I am a man of the footpath; I am against luxury; I eat 50 gm of rice with water, a dash of lemon and one piece of fish. My office no flowers… no decoration. I believe in simplicity,” he told Hindustan Times. But he does not mention his three mobile phones, the branded pen peeping out of his kurta pocket, the not-so-ordinary wrist watch and, of course, the solid gold adorning his fingers. A chain smoker, he settles only for imported cigarettes. “Don’t know about any of this. My sons keep buying for me.”

Back home, he has a flourishing family business. His family wields clout and is well equipped to finance Trinamool Congress’s anti-government agitations and demonstrations. Adhikari played a key role in the Nandigram anti-land acquisition stir. “He is well-to-do to say the least. He is keen to see his children join politics and is backing them to the hilt,” said Pradip Bhattacharya, state Congress’ working president. While one of Adhikari’s four sons, Suvendu, is an MP, his youngest Soumendu, is aspiring to make it to the state Assembly.