Nandigram (West Bengal) [India], April 1 (ANI): Suvendu Adhikari is one of the most talked about leaders in West Bengal as he quit the Trinamool Congress after an almost two-decade association and joined the BJP in December last year since he apparently felt sidelined with the rise of Mamata Banerjee's nephew Abhishek and some organisational changes.
His decision to switch sides has set up the most tantalising contest of the assembly election with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee deciding to take him on in Nandigram.
Much is at stake for both Suvendu Adhikari and Mamata Banerjee in the high-stakes battle on April 1 in the second phase of polling in the state.
Suvendu Adhikari, 50, joined the BJP in December last year after over two decades of association with the Trinamool Congress. He was Transport Minister and resigned as a minister before leaving the party.
He played a key role in the TMC's 2007 anti-land acquisition protest in Nandigram as the ground-level strategist. The agitation helped the party win the 2011 Assembly elections in the state, ending the 34-year rule of the Left Front government.
He was rewarded for his work for the party. Suvendu first entered West Bengal Assembly in 2006, and won the Tamluk Lok Sabha seat in 2009 and in 2014. In 2016, he resigned as MP to join the Mamata Banerjee government.
A rising star in Trinamool, Suvendu apparently felt sidelined with the rise of Mamata Banerjee's nephew Abhishek in the party. He was also apparently irked over some organisational changes by the party such as the appointment of new faces as in-charge of the districts last year.
The Adhikaris have a significant dominance in the Purba Medinipur. They were previously aligned with Congress. Suvendu's father, Sisir Adhikari, was a former Minister of State for Rural Development under the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Sisir Adhikari also joined BJP earlier this month.
Mamata Banerjee had announced in January this year that she will contest from Nandigram. Suvendu Adhikari accepted the challenge and said he would make sure that she loses by 50,000 votes.
He has since launched sharp attacks on Trinamool Congress and has called Abhishek Banerjee 'tolabaj bhaipo' (corrupt nephew).
Suvendu even said at an event at the BJP party office in Hastings that he feels really ashamed that he was part of that Trinamool Congress for 21 years and added that TMC had become like a "company".
Suvendu is credited for turning some of the electorally-significant districts in the state into Trinamool bastions due to his connection with the people at the grassroots.
He was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate in the Narada sting case in September 2017.
Suvendu's brother Soumendu has also joined BJP and the family's switch over to the ruling party at the Centre poses a significant challenge to the Trinamool Congress.
Apart from Purba Medinipur, their home turf, the Adhikari clan is seen to have influence in about 20 seats in adjoining districts, almost all of which have elections in the first two of the eight-phased Bengal election. (ANI)