Two MPs who left TMC to join the BJP before the election are in trouble now. TMC has moved against them and appealed to the Lok Sabha speaker to disqualify them under the anti-defection law. One of them is giant-killer Suvendu Adhikari’s father Sisir Adhikari, and the other is Sunil Mandal.
Suvendu Adhikari, the man credited with galvanising the Nandigram movement that catapulted TMC to power, defected to BJP last December. He took on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in the Nandigram constituency and delivered her the first taste of electoral defeat after 1989. He has been gifted the post of opposition leader of the state assembly by his party, with an intention of poking the chief minister. Meanwhile, Abhishek Banerjee, nephew of the CM, is constantly attacking Suvendu to weaken him politically. Suvendu too is spearheading the attacks on the state government on various counts.
But, Suvendu’s own house is now a divided one. His is a political family that was associated with the Congress from the pre-independence era. His father is in politics since 1972. Sisirbabu was a minister in Manmohan Singh’s second government. But Suvendu has a more chequered career. After Suvendu joined the BJP, his father followed suit. Sisirbabu’s third son Soumendu Adhikari, who was then chairman of Contai Municipality, too followed him.
But Dibyendu Adhikari, the second son, did not leave the TMC. He is the MP from Tamluk. He was active from behind the scene for his brother Suvendu but did not come into the open. The TMC state and district leaders count him as an outsider now, but technically they cannot proceed against him for disqualification from the Lok Sabha.
As Dibyendu is still in the TMC, speculation is rife on whether in the future he will try to improve his relations with Mamata Banerjee. It may turn out politically a wise decision for the family to protect it from all-out attacks from the state government. If Dibyendu can mend fences, Mamata Banerjee may give him a ticket to contest from Tamluk again in 2024, if only to expose the divisions in the Adhikary family, which is politically the most influential one in the Purba Medinipur district.
Dibyendu however is not being trusted either by the TMC or the BJP. The TMC considers him as a betrayer, while the BJP feels he is an opportunist. It appears he has kept open all the options and will decide his future course a few months before the next Lok Sabha elections.
Meanwhile, if the Lok Sabha speaker disqualifies both the defector MPs from the TMC, there will be by-elections in Kanthi (Purba Medinipur), Sisir Adhikari’s constituency, and Bardhaman Purba, the constituency of Sunil Mandal. While the latter would of academic interest, the real political fight will be fought in Kanthi. It will be another straight fight between Mamata and Suvendu, though they will not contest the elections themselves.
(The author Diptendra Raychaudhuri is a senior journalist based in Kolkata. He has a wide range of experience in covering West Bengal politics and has authored several books)