Suvendu Adhikari was arguably the second most powerful person in the Trinamool Congress after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. His political journey started in 2006 when he won the Kanthi Dakshin assembly constituency for the then opposition party, TMC, for the first time. Barely a year into politics, Suvendu Adhikari shot to prominence after he galvanised unprecedented support for the Nandigram movement — that catapulted Mamata Banerjee and her party to power in West Bengal. Suvendu spearheaded the entire anti-land-acquisition movement in Nandigram in 2007.
Impressed by his performance, Mamata Banerjee appointed Suvendu the TMC’s in-charge of three districts — Paschim Medinipur, Purulia and Bankura. He successfully expanded the party’s base in these three districts that contributed to TMC’s rise in the state. In 2009, Suvendu was elected to Lok Sabha from Tamluk. He defeated CPI-M’s strongman Lakshman Seth by 1.72 lakh votes. He retained the Tamluk parliamentary constituency by defeating CPI-M’s Ibrahim Ali in 2014.
In 2016, the TMC again fielded him in the assembly election from Nandigram. He was pitted against Abdul Kadir Sheikh, joint candidate of Left Front and Congress. Suvendu won the contest hands down, polling over 67 percent of votes in Nandigram. After his spectacular win, Mamata Banerjee made him the Minister of Transport. In 2018, he was also given the charge of the Environment Ministry.
Why fallout with CM Mamata Banerjee
Adhikari was the second most powerful person in the party. But this power equation began to change with the rise of Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek in the party and entry of poll strategist Prashant Kishor. Suvendu, who was credited for the success of the Nandigram movement that helped Mamata gain power in Bengal, was not comfortable with new power equations and rise of Kishor and Abhishek in TMC. Suvendu was also at odds with Mamata Banerjee for some appointments at district observer level. Today, BJP National General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said that Suvendu was upset with Mamata Banerjee’s arrogance and corruption.
Why it matters for TMC
Suvendu’s exit from the TMC would be the biggest blow for Mamata Banerjee. So far, he has resigned as minister but continues to be the MLA and in TMC. Senior TMC leader and MP Saugata Ray confirmed that Suvendu has not resigned from the party and will not go to Delhi. However, the buzz is that he will join the BJP — a move that would put BJP in a position to challenge Mamata in 2021. Suvendu’s move would be significant considering his influence over some leaders in the TMC. Just the other day when Suvendu held a rally without the TMC banner, six MLAs were with him on the stage. The biggest worry for Mamata now is how to keep her flock together as there will be a fear that more and more party MLAs could jump the ship with Suvendu.
Suvendu, whose father Sisir Adhikary is TMC MP from Kanthi Lok Sabha seat, alone commands considerable clout in 35-40 assembly constituencies that are in West Midnapore, Purulia, Bankura, Jhargram, and parts of Birbhum. Till today, eight MLAs, including Mihir Goswami, from TMC have joined the BJP.
Suvendu’s entry in the saffron camp would add more firepower among its cadres and workers against the TMC and Mamata Banerjee who has already lost close lieutenant Mukul Roy to the BJP. The TMC knows it well after the 2019 Lok Sabha election in which BJP surprised almost everyone by winning 18 of 42 seats with close to 41 per cent vote share. Mamata Banerjee’s TMC won 22 seats, 12 less than what it had bagged in 2014. The BJP, on the other hand, upped its tally by 16 seats. The difference of vote percentage between both the parties came down to just over 3 per cent — BJP got 40.64 per cent and TMC 43.69 per cent. Going by its performance in the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP would be hoping to dethrone Mamata next year by deploying all its arsenal in command.