Neither sacked by CM nor quit party, says rebel TMC minister after talks
Amid speculation that he could be heading for the BJP, Suvendu Adhikari said as long as he is the TMC he will not act irresponsibly.Updated: Nov 19, 2020, 18:55 IST
Nine days after throwing a veiled challenge at the Trinamool Congress (TMC) leadership, West Bengal transport minister and heavyweight leader Suvendu Adhikari on Thursday sounded mellow at a rally and said neither has chief minister Mamata Banerjee sacked him from the cabinet nor has he left the party.
“I am still an active primary member of the party. I am still a minister and part of the cabinet. Neither has the chief minister sacked me, nor have I quit on my own. I am here as long as the higher authorities don’t expel me or I leave,” Adhikari said at a big rally organised on the occasion of the 67th National Cooperative Week by various cooperative banks and organisations at Nandakumar in East Midnapore district.
“Some people are expecting me to make a political statement today. I cannot do that. We hail from the land of Iswarchandra Vidyasagar,” said Adhikari, referring to the 19th century social reformer and educationist. “Political statements cannot be made while staying in the party and the cabinet. There can be differences and differences can lead to separation. But as long as I am in the party I cannot act irresponsibly,” said Adhikari.
Senior TMC leaders told HT last week that Adhikari is particularly unhappy with organizational decisions taken by the chief minister’s nephew and Lok Sabha member Abhishek Banerjee and election strategist Prashant Kishor who was roped in after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 18 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2019.
On November 10, Adhikari threw a veiled challenge at the party while addressing a public rally at Nandigram, his assembly constituency in East Midnapore.
“Political observers are waiting for me to announce my political programme. They want to hear me talk about the roadblocks I am facing and the path I am going to take. I will not announce my political programme from this sacred platform. This is not the place. I will speak from a political platform,” said Adhikari. “I am not afraid of anyone. We will meet on the battlefield,” he added without naming anyone or even the TMC.
Triggering speculations that he might join the BJP, Adhikari ended his short speech with the slogan “Bharat Mata Zindabad,” which appeared to be an improvisation on the Hindi slogan BJP leaders raise. The TMC hurriedly held a counter rally in Nandigram and urban development minister Firhad Hakim took pot shots at Adhikari without naming him.
Two senior TMC Lok Sabha members, Saugata Roy and Sudip Bandopadhyay had been discreetly holding talks with the rebel minister since then. Even Kishor visited the minister’s father, Lok Sabha member Sisir Adhikari, last week and held a long discussion. Their efforts apparently had some effect.
“I had a talk with Suvendu earlier this week. I have informed Mamata Banerjee about what transpired. She has given her initial reaction. I will have a word with Sudip and we will again talk to Suvendu next week. He told us that has not taken any decision on quitting the party,” Saugata Roy said on Thursday.
Amid the TMC’s efforts to pacify Adhikari, the BJP made no bones of what it thinks about the situation.
“What’s going on between the TMC and Adhikari and the language being used against him by some of the leaders cannot exactly be described as a honeymoon,” quipped state BJP vice-president Jay Prakash Majumdar.