NANDIGRAM: Daggers were drawn between West Bengal minister Suvendu Adhikari and the TMC on Tuesday, with the former taking a dig at party colleagues for visiting Nandigram after a gap of 13 years before the 2021 state polls.
This evoked a sharp response from the TMC which hit back at Adhikari for "helping BJP" by negating the contributions of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during the anti-land acquisition movement.
TMC's ire was heightened as Adhikari, who is one of the most influential members of the party, did not once mention Banerjee or the party during a rally held by him to pay respect to martyrs of Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee (Land Eviction Resistance Committee) on 'Nandigram Dibas'.
It was on this day in 2007 that some BUPC members were killed in police firing.
Banerjee, riding the crest of the anti-farmland acquisition movement had succeeded in dislodging the 34-year-long rule of the Left Front in the state in 2011.
Adhikari expressing his gratitude towards those who took an active part in the movement but did not take the name of the party nor its supremo.
He said, "The Nandigram movement was a people's movement. It was not of any particular individual. I have been with the people of Nandigram."
"After 13 years, a few people are now coming here as the elections are approaching. I want to tell them if they are coming before polls, they will have to come after elections too," he said at the BUPC rally that did not have posters of Banerjee or TMC flags.
About six TMC MLAs were seen on the stage with him.
Adhikari and TMC senior leader and state minister Firhad Hakim who addressed two different rallies during the day took pot shots at each other without taking any names.
Adhikari, who has been maintaining a distance from the party's top leadership for the last few months, said he will never use the BUPC platform for "vested political interests" and will announce his next course of action from a political platform.
Adhikari said he "never believed in using the platform of BUPC for political gains".
"I used to come alone during those days and stood by the people," he said.
"Whatever I will have to say regarding my next course of action, I will say from a political platform. I will say everything but not from this pious stage," Adhikari said before ending his speech with 'Bharat Mata Zindabad'.
Hakim, who addressed the party's rally her,e said it would have been good had Adhikari addressed the rally under TMC's banner.
Later addressing the rally, Hakim and and party MP Dola Sen blamed Adhikari without naming him for strengthening the "hands of the BJP".
"All of us have been able to work for the people as Mamata Banerjee has given us an opportunity to do so. Those who are today trying to negate the contributions of Mamata Banerjee are trying to help the BJP. They are supporting divisive politics," Hakim said.
Apparently referring to Adhikari's comment, Sen said "Earlier there was no need for us to come here as the programme organised by BUPC was considered as a party programme.
But this time the programme was organised without any party flag or posters of Mamata Banerjee".
Hakim, without naming anyone, said "Mir Zafars (known to have betrayed Bengal Nawab Siraj-ud-daulah during the Batlle of Plassey) have always been there in politics."
Adhikari's younger brother and TMC MP, Dibyendu Adhikari shot back saying "such kind of statements are unacceptable from Hakim.
The party did not call us for the meeting so we did not go".
The BJP was quick to throw its weight behind Adhikari and said it was he who "single-handedly fought against the Left Front in Nandigram".
"During my years in TMC I have seen that it was Suvendu who single-handedly fought against the Left Front in Nandigram. Today those TMC leaders who are lecturing him were nowhere during the Nandigram movement," BJP national vice-president Mukul Roy said.
Roy, who was once a number two in TMC, had switched over to BJP in 2017 over differences with Banerjee.
According to TMC sources, Adhikari has been distancing himself from the party for past several months and organising programmes without the party banner.
He did not attend several party programmes and state cabinet meetings in the last few months.
He has been holding rallies during the last two months in East Midnapore district, which like the one he addressed during the day, did not have any flag or symbol of TMC or poster of the chief minister giving rise to speculations.
Apart from East Midnapore district, Adhikari has influence in about 35 assembly constituencies in West Midnapore, Bankura, Purulia, Jhargram and parts of Birbhum.
He is a member of the powerful Adhikari family of East Midnapore district.
His father Sisir Adhikari and younger brother Dibyendu Adhikari are TMC MPs from Tamluk and Kanthi Lok Sabha constituencies respectively.