Setback to TMC as leader quits cabinet
West Bengal transport minister and senior Trinamool Congress leader Suvendu Adhikari resigned from the state cabinet on Friday, dealing a blow to the Mamata Banerjee-led government in run-up to the assembly polls due in five months.
Adhikari sent his resignation letter to Banerjee and emailed a copy to governor Jagdeep Dhankhar at 1.05pm, fanning speculation that he might quit the party and make his next political move. Adhikari, however, made no move till 8pm to indicate that he would step down as a legislator or leave the TMC. Senior party leaders maintained that Adhikari did not drop any hint that he might join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and efforts were on to reach out to him. BJP leaders did not claim that the 50-year-old legislator was ready to switch sides either.
A senior TMC leader said on condition of anonymity that the differences between Adhikari and the party leadership widened after he wanted it to field candidates of his choice on 65 assembly seats spread across several districts. This was unacceptable to the leadership.
While Adhikari avoided the media on Friday, Banerjee called a meeting of senior leaders in the evening and informed the governor that the resignation had been accepted and she would take charge of the three departments that he was looking after.
Adhikari and his family have played a key role in the growth of the TMC in East Midnapore. The Kanthi and Tamluk Lok Sabha seats, most of the assembly segments comprising these and many local bodies, are controlled by the leader, his two brothers and their father, 78-year-old Lok Sabha member Sisir Adhikari.
Adhikari, a legislator from Nandigram in East Midnapore, had resigned from the post of chairman of the Hooghly River Bridge Commission on Thursday. On Friday, he also resigned from the Haldia Development Authority of which he was the chairman. “I do hereby tender my resignation from my office as Minister. Steps may be taken for its immediate acceptance,” Adhikari wrote to Banerjee.
“I still believe that he will not quit the party. He was aggrieved with certain decisions of the party. Quitting the cabinet was his personal decision. I don’t know why he took it. We will try to talk to him,” said TMC lok Sabha member Saugata Roy who had been holding talks with Adhikari over the past few days.
The TMC suffered another blow on Friday evening when Mihir Goswami, the rebel legislator from the Cooch Behar South seat, joined the BJP in the presence national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya. Goswami resigned from the TMC a few hours before joining the Opposition camp.
Senior TMC leaders told HT earlier this month that Adhikari was unhappy with organisational decisions taken by the CM’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee and election strategist Prashant Kishor who was roped in after the BJP won 18 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2019.
On November 10, Adhikari threw a veiled challenge to the party while addressing a public rally in Nandigram.
“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. I will speak from a political platform,” he said at the rally.
“The days of the Mamata Banerjee government are numbered. Adhikari has dealt a blow to the ruling party,” said Vijayvargiya. He refused to comment whether Adhikari was going to join his party.
While joining the BJP, Goswami said, “I am happy to announce that today I am joining the BJP. I would like to call this a crusade against immoral and incorrect happenings in our state... My decision is driven by the corruption and reign of contract firms. We hope to see north Bengal rising again under the leadership of our beloved prime minister Narendra Modi.”
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