Home Minister Amit Shah is back in West Bengal this weekend, 40 days after he kicked off the BJP’s campaign for 200 out of 294 seats for election to the legislative assembly. His itinerary is yet to be fixed, but the highpoint, barring unforeseen circumstances, will be the induction of Trinamool Congress leader Suvendu Adhikari into the BJP.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, for the first time, publicly acknowledged and attacked potential party rebels now exploring options. The stage for Mr Adhikari’s induction is being set for December 19 at Medinipur town in West Midnapore district, about 150 km from Kolkata, which is Mr Shah’s first stop.
Originally, his meetings with party workers and farmers were to be held at an indoor stadium. Now the venue is a wide open ground where Mr Adhikari will switch sides.
Mr Adhikari, Trinamool Congress’s Nandigram MLA and once the organisational lynchpin, has done nothing to dispel the possibility.
At a non-political public meeting at Haldia in East Midnapore district today, Mr Adhikari said, “We have to get back in Bengal what the Constitution has said – for the people, by the people and of the people. Why will it be for the party, by the party and of the party here?”
“I don’t believe in personal attacks. Many people are abusing me. Some people are attacking me from big posts. But in a few days, you will know when people cast their vote how it feels to be Laxman Seth, Anil Bose, Bolenoy Konar,” Mr Adhikari said, referring to three Communist Party of India (Marxist) leaders who won with record margins in the past and lost by record margins too.
Ms Banerjee, in a way, confirmed the parting of ways. At a rally in Jalpaiguri, she accused rebels of profiting from Trinamool Congress and the government and now seeking other options. She has not acknowledged rebels in the party so angrily before.
“We will stand with the people and fight with them. That is our promise. Who is bigger than who in the party should not be the issue. After profiting from the party for 10 years, after profiting from being part of the government, to hobnob with this and that party… I will not tolerate such people,” Ms Banerjee said.
Mr Adhikari’s exit will hurt Trinamool Congress, but to what extent depends on who is speaking. Most, however, agree Mr Adhikari may not be the only exit from Trinamool Congress. Asansol strongman and former mayor Jitendra Tiwari is openly unhappy, so is Forest Minister Rajib Banerjee.
Ms Banerjee met with Trinamool Congress secretary general Partha Chatterjee and with poll strategist Prashant Kishor on Sunday. Mr Tiwari did not come to Kolkata for a meeting with Firhad Hakim, minister, and Mr Kishor today. He has said Ms Banerjee called him for talks on December 18, and he would talk to her and no one else.
The BJP’s Kailash Vijayvargiya called and wished Mr Adhikari on his 50th birthday today.