Suvendu Adhikari, former Trinamool heavy weight and Cabinet Minister, joins the BJP in the presence of Amit Shah along with several lawmakers and grassroots leaders

Published : December 19, 2020 20:38 IST

At the rally held in Pachim Medinipur on December 19 in which Suvendu Adhikari (second from left) formally joined the BJP. The others in the picture are (from left) Dilip Ghosh, president, BJP, West Bengal; Home Minister Amit Shah; and Kailash Vijayvargia, BJP national general secretary. Photo: Partha Mukherjee

Suvendu Adhikari, one of the most influential leaders with a mass following in West Bengal and a former Minister in Mamata Banerjee’s Cabinet, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today after leaving the Trinamool Congress on December 17. At a massive public rally held in Pashchim Medinipur, Suvendu Adhikari, along with a host of Trinamool leaders (including nine lawmakers), was welcomed formally into the saffron fold by Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Suvendu Adhikari joining the BJP is being seen as the most significant political development ahead of the Assembly elections due in a few months.

Among the important Trinamool leaders who joined the BJP along with Suvendu Adhikari are MLAs Bisawajit Kundu, Saikat Panja, Silbhadra Dutta, Banashri Maity, Sukra Munda and Dipali Biswas; Sunil Kumar Mondal, Lok Sabha MP; influential minority community leaders Kabirul Islam, Ohyedul Haque, Pervez Rahaman, Alamgir Molla and Karam Hossein Khan; Shyamaprasad Mukherjee, former Cabinet Minister; Diptangshu Chowdhury, Adviser to the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO); and Dasarath Tirkey, former Trinamool MP.

Three other MLAs, one each from the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Congress, also joined the BJP along with a large number of grassroots leaders loyal to Suvendu Adhikari. The Trinamool’s main fear now is that this would trigger a mass exodus that the party would find hard to handle.

According to sources in the BJP, there is an apparent rush to leave the Trinamool. A BJP leader told Frontline: “Every day, local-level Trinamool leaders and workers are coming to us and requesting us to take them into the party, but we are also being careful. Many of these people have caused great harm to our followers over the years.”

Speaking at the rally, Suvendu Adhikari said that it was not possible for him to continue in the Trinamool and maintain his self-respect. “I have just started and within 24 hours you will see the difference in every booth. I assure you I have not come to throw my weight around. I will do whatever the party wants me to do—fixing flags, writing on walls if necessary.”

He countered the Trinamool’s political stand of labelling the BJP as an “outsider’s party” that was alien to Bengali culture saying: “They are calling Amit Shah an outsider, Kailash Vijayvargiya an outsider…. as I have said before, we are first Indians and then Bengalis…. I will not allow this inclusiveness in Bengal to be destroyed…. I truly believe that the same party should be [in power] at the Centre and here, otherwise Bengal will not survive.”

He singled out for criticism Abhishek Banerjee, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and heir apparent to the Trinamool leadership. Abhishek, he said, was an extortionist: “What I do, I do with integrity. When I was with Trinamool, I worked for Trinamool, and today I say, throw out the extortionist nephew!”

Amit Shah said: “Under the leadership of Suvendu bhai, all the good people from Congress, Trinamool and the CPI(M) are joining the BJP to work under Narendra Modi.” Addressing Mamata Banerjee, he said, “Didi, this is just the beginning; by the time the elections arrive, you will find yourself all alone.” He alleged that under Mamata Banerjee, the Trinamool’s slogan “Maa Maati Maanush” (Mother, Earth, Humanity) had become “extortion, corruption and pandering to the nephew”.

Officially, the Trinamool leadership is putting on a brave front. Kalyan Banerjee, Lok Sabha MP and senior Trinamool leader, said: “Why did you [Suvendu Adhikari] remain in the party if it was rotten. If the party was rotten then you too were rotten inside it. Do you need to reap the benefits of everything? …Don’t change your seat in Nandigram [Suvendu Adhikari’s Vidhan Sabha constituency]. In the election we will teach you a lesson.... In the 2021 elections there will be a storm the name of which will be Mamata Banerjee.” Referring to Suvendu Adhikari’s attack on “Bhaipo” (Mamata Banerjee’s nephew), he said: “You are a coward and that is why you did not have the guts to call him by his name.”