Trinamool heavyweight Suvendu Adhikari resigns as MLA and is expected to join the BJP along with other disgruntled Trinamool leaders

Published : December 16, 2020 22:07 IST

Suvendu Adhikari. Photo: Business Line

In a major political development in election-bound West Bengal, Suvendu Adhikari, disgruntled Trinamool heavyweight and former Cabinet Minister, submitted his resignation from the State Assembly on December 16, 20 days after quitting Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Cabinet. According to reliable sources, he is most likely to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), though both Adhikari and the BJP are tight-lipped about it.

In a handwritten letter addressed to the Speaker of the West Bengal Assembly, Suvendu Adhikari said: “I do hereby tender my resignation from the member of the West Bengal Legislative Assembly. Steps may be taken for its immediate acceptance.”

Suvendu Adhikari’s rift with the Trinamool Congress has been the subject of political speculation for several months now. Considered the tallest and the most influential mass leader in the party after Mamata Banerjee, his imminent departure from the Trinamool has been a major source of uneasiness for the party. Though he had quit on November 27 as Minister in charge of Transport, Irrigation, and Water Resources Investigation and Development, he had not left the party or resigned from the MLA’s post. His resignation from the Assembly is being perceived as yet another step towards formally joining the BJP. It is significant that soon after his resignation, he held a meeting with several other disgruntled Trinamool leaders and lawmakers.

Adhikari’s departure will be a big blow to the ruling party ahead of the Assembly election. Several attempts at a rapprochement between the leadership and him had failed and members of the Trinamool, resigning themselves to the inevitable, leveled their guns and started attacking one of their most important leaders even though he had not officially left the party.

Kalyan Bandopadhyay, Lok Sabha MP, said: “After enjoying the benefits for so long, he’s left. Good. It is better to have an empty cowshed than have an evil cow in it. The faster he leaves the party, the better.” Saugata Roy, another Lok Sabha MP who was given the task of negotiating with Suvendu Adhikari, said: “Suvendu Adhikari has betrayed the party…. I do not know what deals the BJP has made with him, but we were expecting this, and in our minds it is not a setback.” He said nothing could be done about a person’s expectations. “If someone is a Minister of three Departments and he wants to be the Deputy Chief Minister or the Chief Minister, it is not possible to fulfill his expectations. It is not about ideology, it is just a haggling for posts…” said Roy.

But Suvendu Adhikari alleged that the State government was on a “political vendetta mode” and wrote to Governor Jagdip Dhankhar, seeking his intervention. “I am constrained to seek your intervention as constitutional head so that police and administrative apparatus in the State is dissuaded from implicating me and my associate followers in criminal cases out of political motivation and vendetta,” he wrote in the letter. He alleged that the change in his “political stance” was “spurring those in authority to be in political vendetta mode against me. Unleashing police repression by implication in criminal cases on political considerations is certainly an alarming indicator of governance away from the rule of law. Such sinister moves are antithetical to Constitution.”

For the BJP, the developments have come as a shot in the arm. Dilip Ghosh, State party president and Lok Sabha MP, dismissed the ruling party’s allegation that the the BJP was trying to break up the Trinamool. “Mamata Banerjee is blaming the BJP [for people leaving her party]. We have no part in this. If people, seeing our activities and our fight, feel inspired to join us, there is no harm in it. We are not even in power here,” said Ghosh. He added that his party was ready to accept Suvendu Adhikari in its fold.

Mukul Roy, senior BJP leader who was once Suvendu Adhikari’s colleague in the Trinamool, described it as a “big development in the field of political mass movement in Bengal”. He welcomed Adhikari’s resignation, pointing out that it indicated a “complete severance of ties with Trinamool”.

In the midst of this development, confusion remained over the manner in which Suvendu Adhikari tendered his resignation as MLA. According to the Assembly rules, a person resigning from the Assembly must be present in front of the Speaker and write down his resignation letter there. In the absence of the Speaker, the member who is resigning has to hand over the resignation letter to the Secretary of the Vidhan Sabha, who would hand over the letter to the Speaker. When Suvendu Adhikari went to the Assembly to resign on the evening of December 16, Speaker Biman Banerjee was not present and he handed over the letter at the Receipt Section in the Assembly. He had emailed his resignation letter to the Speaker.