Growing Disquiet Within Trinamool Over Predominance Of Mamata Banerjee's Nephew Abhishek
While most disgruntled leaders are lying low and biding their time, one revolt that has come out in the open is that of state transport minister Suvendu Adhikari.
A few front-ranking leaders of the Trinamool who have mass bases of their own are angry over the predominance of party supremo Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee in party affairs.
These leaders, who do not depend on Mamata Banerjee for winning elections, are also upset over attempts to sideline them on their own turf.
Mamata Banerjee has never trusted these ‘popular’ leaders completely since she knows she cannot exercise complete control over them.
That is why she has been attempting to prop rivals on their turf in a bid to chip away at their popularity and gain a handle on them.
The predominance of Abhishek Banerjee in party affairs has alienated these leaders. Abhishek is Mamata Banerjee’s heir apparent and has been given a major role in party affairs over the past few years.
Abhishek has been attempting, with his paternal aunt’s (Mamata’s) blessings, to sideline these leaders within the party, thus upsetting them.
He has engaged his loyalists to needle these leaders in their domains.
These leaders are now ready to revolt, and that can upset the Trinamool’s apple cart before the forthcoming Assembly elections.
While most of these angry leaders are lying low and biding their time, waiting for a right opportunity to strike back at Abhishek, one revolt that has come out in the open is that of state transport minister Suvendu Adhikari.
Suvendu belongs to a political family — his father Sisir and brother Dibyendu are Lok Sabha MPs — that has very strong roots in the two districts of Purba and Paschim Medinipur.
Sisir Adhikari was a junior minister in the Manmohan Singh government.
The Adhikari trio led the that catapulted Mamata Banerjee to power in the state.
Without their help, Banerjee could never have trumped the CPI(M).
Naturally, the Adhikari brothers and their father do not have to depend on Mamata Banerjee to win elections from their Medinipur bastion.
But that makes Banerjee very uncomfortable and she has always been suspicious of the Adhikari family.
“Mamata Banerjee knows very well that the Adhikari family enjoys huge support in Medinipur and that this support is independent of her or the Trinamool. She knows that they (the Adhikaris) don’t need her for their political survival,” said a Trinamool MLA who is close to the Adhikari family.
Suvendu, a bold and charismatic politician whose appeal transcends the boundaries of the two Medinipur districts, has always made Mamata Banerjee very uncomfortable.
More so since he is very ambitious and overshadows Abhishek Banerjee.
Suvendu has always had testy ties with Abhishek and despite the Trinamool chief’s many subtle and not-so-subtle attempts, his popularity has not waned.
Suvendu is looked up to by Trinamool cadres across the state as a daring leader who ought to be given a much greater role in party affairs.
Abhishek Banerjee has been fighting a proxy war with Suvendu through his minions in Medinipur who he (Abhishek) has been encouraging to challenge Suvendu.
A number of minor Trinamool leaders have started speaking out against Suvendu.
An upset Suvendu, on his part, has been consolidating his support base and fending off threats, albeit minor ones, from Abhishek’s minions.
But, say people close to him, Suvendu is biding his time. He has not been attending office (as a Minister) or working actively for the party. He has kept himself away from public meetings attended by senior ministers.
“If Mamata Banerjee does not rein in Abhishek, he (Suvendu) will chart his own course. He has not been given his due in the party despite the immense sacrifices that he and his family have made. Without Sisir and Suvendu Adhikari, the Nandigram movement would simply not have taken off,” said the Trinamool MLA.
Suvendu, according to the political grapevine, has been in touch with the BJP and may join the saffron party at a later date.
That has widened the rift between Suvendu and the Trinamool chief.
However, it is not just Suvendu who is upset with Mamata Banerjee and her nephew. There are at least a dozen other top-ranking Trinamool leaders who are unhappy with the aunt-nephew duo.
There are many reasons for that. Mamata Banerjee is suspicious by nature and also very impatient and short-tempered. Her rebukes and insults have alienated many senior party leaders.
“Mamata Banerjee is a very insecure person and distrusts anyone within the party with a mass base or those who enjoy a modicum of popular support. So she always attempts to erode their support base by encouraging their political rivals,” said another MLA.
“Anyone with an iota of self-respect will not put up with Mamata Banerjee’s misbehaviour and insults forever. Some have left the party or simply retired from politics while others are biding their time,” said a former Trinamool leader who was once very close to Mamata Banerjee and used to guide her.
Some of these disgruntled leaders Swarajya spoke to admitted that they were unhappy and would not have second thoughts over leaving the Trinamool at an opportune time.
Given the momentum being gathered by the BJP, that ‘opportune time’ may not be very far away.
Mamata Banerjee also knows this, but she suffers from the mistaken notion that all these disgruntled leaders would face electoral setbacks if they leave the Trinamool.
She has started propping up political lightweights who would always be beholden to her for political survival to replace these heavyweight leaders.
But the Assembly elections next year is likely to shatter her illusion that she is the lone pole star of Bengal politics and no other person has relevance in the state’s political landscape.
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