From Mamata’s Man Friday to Her Biggest Adversary

Suvendu Adhikari, protege-turned-rival of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, made headlines in November last year when he resigned as state transport minister and later joined BJP. The former TMC heavyweight now faces party supremo Banerjee in the high octane battle at Nandigram in Purbo Medinipur district of West Bengal. Polling in the constituency is slated for April 1.

Nandigram is considered as a strong bastion of rebel TMC leader Adhikari, where during 2007-11 he was Mamata’s general on the ground in the fight against “forcible” land acquisition by the then Left Front government for setting up a Special Economic Zone. Suvendu was a key man behind Banerjee’s agitation which helped her end the 34-year Left Front rule in Bengal. Over the years, Mamata also gave due respect to him and his family members for their dedication towards the party. Adhikari is the son of veteran political leader and three-time MP Sishir Adhikari.

His effort to strengthen TMC in the ‘Rarh’ region didn’t go unnoticed. From Member of Parliament, to state minister, to chairperson of co-operative banks – Mamata rewarded him for his struggle in Nandigram.

However, before quitting as the minister for transport and irrigation, Adhikari had been at loggerheads with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and had not been attending state cabinet meetings. On December 2, he reportedly expressed his dismay through a WhatsApp message to party MP Saugata Roy over details of the meeting (to resolve the differences between him and the party) being leaked to the media claiming that all the ‘issues’ were resolved. Adhikari had also vocally opposed the role given to poll strategist Prashant Kishor ahead of elections.

The turncoat leader’s influence extends from East Midnapore to Jangalmahal, West Midnapur, Bankura and Purulia. However, his performance as TMC incharge of Purulia, Jhargram, Murshidabad, Malda, East Midnapore, West Midnapore, Bankura and Bishnupur in the 2019 parliamentary polls was not so great. The TMC lost nine Lok Sabha seats out of the 13 in these regions where Suvendu is known as a mass leader and is believed to have significant clout among the people.

Mamata Banerjee, an MLA from Bhawanipore, this time decided to fight the elections from Nandigram, where Adhikari has been fielded by the BJP. The two had engaged in a bitter war of words over the past few days, with Adhikari accusing Banerjee of practising appeasement politics, and the TMC boss alleging that the saffron camp had been trying to polarise voters on religious lines.

Adhikari has declared net worth of over Rs 80 lakh. As per the 50-year-old leader’s affidavit to the Election Commission his net worth is Rs 80,66,749.32.

His movable assets are worth Rs 59,31,647.32 while his bank balance is Rs 46,15,513.32, including Rs 41,823 in his election expenditure account. His income in 2019-20 was Rs 1,115,715.00 and his cash in hand is Rs 50,000.00, as per his affidavit.

In his affidavit the BJP leader has declared that he has criminal cases pending against him. He also declared himself to be a post graduate from Rabindra Bharati University and a resident of Nandigram constituency.

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