Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress took its battle against former leader Suvendu Adhikari to his home turf today, with a padayatra and massive rally at Kanthi, the district headquarters of East Midnapore, which is where the Adhikari family lives.
Neither Mr Adhikari’s father, Sisir, nor his brother, Dibyendu, both of whom are Trinamool MPs, were at the rally. A second brother, Soumendu, the chairman of a local civic body, was also absent.
Sisir Adhikari and Dibyendu Adhikari said they had not received invitations to the rally. However, Akhil Giri, a Trinamool MLA who is also a well-known rival of Suvendu Adhikari, said invitations had, in fact, been sent.
The Adhikaris also pointed out that none of the posters and banners for the rally had photographs of either Sisir (the MP from Kanthi) or Dibyendu (the MP from Tamluk).
The next round in this growing feud will likely be fired by Suvendu Adhikari, who will hold a padayatra and rally of his own at Kanthi today.
Meanwhile, senior Trinamool MP Saugata Roy and minister Firhad Hakim launched blistering attacks against Suvendu Adhikari at the rally.
“Our rally today has proved that there is no alternative to Mamata Banerjee. It doesn’t matter who leaves and goes. Suvendu is a traitor… he joined the party of Nathuram Godse, killer of Gandhi. The revolutionary land of Midnapore won’t forgive him for joining a communal party,” Mr Roy said.
“Let Prime Minister Modi come… let Amit Shah come… let the leaders of BJP jump around like Hanuman, nothing will happen to the Trinamool,” he declared.
Mr Hakim also hit out at Mr Adhikari, saying, “You fought for farmers… you fought against the Left… then why did you touch the feet of Amit Shah that day? East Midnapore is not (your) family’s fiefdom.”
Locals said turnout for the Trinamool’s rally was impressive – so much so that they thought Mamata Banerjee was present. However, factionalism within the party reared its ugly head after Mr Roy and Mr Hakim – the two main speakers – said their pieces and left.
The supporters of Tarun Jana, a block-level leader who had apparently arranged for the crowds, were angry after he was not mentioned by Mr Hakim while thanking the rally organisers.
Mr Jana’s supporters verbally attacked Akhil Giri, who had given Mr Hakim the list of people to be thanked. Mr Giri had left Tarun Jana’s name out, and said the omission was accidental.
All eyes now are on Suvendu Adhikari and his padayatra-cum- rally, which is expected to begin at 1 pm in Kolkata. The BJP’s Mukul Roy has said the public event is Mr Adhikari’s own enterprise and the the party is not involved.
Associates of Mr Adhikari, who is widely regarded as playing a key role in the Nandigram movement that paved the way for Mamata Banerjee come to power in 2011, reportedly told the BJP earlier that they can “break” the Trinamool in three months.