Kolkata: Rebel Trinamool Congress leader Suvendu Adhikari, who resigned from the state cabinet barely four days ago, met Trinamool seniors at a north Kolkata address on Tuesday evening, prompting the party to claim that Suvendu was “firmly with the Trinamool” and “there was no question of him going anywhere”.
There was no word from Suvendu himself about the outcome of the hush-hush dialogue but it was the rebel leader’s first face-to-face meeting in the last few months with CM Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and Diamond Harbour MP, Abhishek Banerjee, and party strategist Prashant Kishor (also present were senior party MPs Saugata Roy and Sudip Bandyopadhyay). “Suvendu was happy with the antorikota (sincerity) on display,” a senior Trinamool leader told TOI after the meeting. “There was a phone call from the meeting to Kalighat (CM Banerjee’s residence),” the Trinamool veteran said, adding that “everyone was happy that Suvendu finally agreed to meet Abhishek and Kishor”.
Trinamool leaders said Suvendu had been “requested” to be present at Mamata’s Midnapore rally next week and was promised that he would have “an important role to play in selection of candidates for the assembly polls”.
Trinamool MP Roy, entrusted with the task of engaging Suvendu in talks and keeping him in the party fold, insisted that Suvendu was “very much with the Trinamool” and would not be “going anywhere”. “I have been insisting for the last 10 days that he would not leave the Trinamool,” the veteran MP said, adding: “We needed to meet face-to-face and, hence, Tuesday’s meeting. All is fine, it was a good meeting (Sab mite giyechhe, bhalo meeting hoyechhe). Suvendu may clarify his position to the media on Wednesday.”
Other Trinamool Congress seniors, too, said “too much should not be read into” Suvendu’s continued silence even after Tuesday’s meeting, which they called “a significant ice-breaker”.
There has been speculation — which Suvendu or his politically influential family has not denied — that his rebellion was against the increasing importance of Abhishek and strategist Kishor in the party and his being “sidelined” within the organisation. Suvendu has been holding “apolitical” rallies on home turf East Midnapore and neighbouring districts like West Midnapore and Hooghly over the last few weeks. He quit his transport and irrigation portfolios on Friday, asking for “immediate acceptance” of his resignation, and a day before that resigned from the Hooghly River Bridge Commissioner chairman’s post. He also gave up the Haldia Development Authority’s chairmanship and his Z-category security and government flats, fuelling speculation that he would be quitting the Trinamool Congress as well. BJP seniors like state party chief Dilip Ghosh and Congress seniors, including Bengal unit chief Adhir Chowdhury, have actively wooed Suvendu, calling him an “asset” for any party.
On Tuesday evening, however, things appeared to have taken a dramatic turn. The meeting, which started around 6 p.m. and ended a little before 9 p.m., capped a day of intense activity. Suvendu started from his Contai home on Tuesday morning, setting off speculation that he would be going to the state legislature to submit his resignation as a Trinamool MLA. He never reached the Vidhan Sabha but, instead, headed to the north Kolkata address. Trinamool seniors said only the top leadership (referring to the Bengal CM) and the people present at the meeting knew what was unfolding.
Suvendu did not take calls after the meeting and his father and Trinamool Contai MP, Sisir Adhikari, was cryptic in his reaction. “I came to know of the developments from television channels. It will be good for the Trinamool if Suvendu does not leave the party,” the family patriarch said. One of Suvendu’s brothers, Dibyendu, is the Trinamool MP from Tamluk and another brother, Soumendu, is the chairman of the Contai Municipality.
The BJP responded guardedly with party Bengal chief Ghosh contending that “Suvendu’s staying back with the Trinamool is not a blow to the BJP”. “It is the Trinamool’s internal matter. I have nothing to say if they can manage the feud. I can only say that the BJP is confident of its own strength in Bengal. But our doors are still open for Suvendu,” he added. Central leader and Bengal minder Kailash Vijayvargiya still sounded hopeful: “I am sure Suvendu will not bend before anyone.”
Suvendu has been one of the Trinamool’s mainstays since when it was an opposition party in Bengal a decade ago. The Adhikari clan controls a substantial part of the party apparatus in East Midnapore (which has 16 seats) but Suvendu’s influence extends beyond his own Nandigram constituency and East Midnapore district, with pockets of support in the Jangalmahal districts (West Midnapore, Bankura, Purulia and Jhargram) and Murshidabad.