West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee 
and Suvendu Adhikari (right)
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and Suvendu Adhikari (right)

A couple of months ahead of the West Bengal Assembly poll, the churn in its state politics is gathering speed. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has lost some of her sheen since she first stormed to power in 2011 at the back of anti-land acquisition protests in Nandigram and Singur.

She has courted trouble by allowing her nephew, Abhishek Banerjee, MP, to play the secondmost powerful leader in the ruling party. More trouble has been piled on by her decision to outsource election strategy to a mercenary outfit run by the controversial Prashant Kishor. The election strategist sells his services to the highest bidder, suggesting as if influencing voters is a mechanical science without myriad human factors entering the equation between a politician and his constituents.

Be that as it may, between the nephew and the election strategist, they have ensured antagonising one of the most important leaders of the ruling Trinamool Congress. Suvendu Adhikari, a powerful leader of the party, with influence in six districts constituting 65 of the 294 Assembly seats, is now on the brink of quitting the party. Efforts to mollycoddle him by the CM’s emissaries last week proved futile. Earlier this month, Adhikari resigned as the head of the Hooghly River Bridge Commission and later, tendered his resignation as minister for transport, irrigation and water resources.

Belonging to a powerful political family --- his father Sisir Adhikari is a sitting MP from Kanthi, having been elected for the third successive term --- Suvendu is holding public meetings sans the Trinamool banners and flags. Observers believe this is to prepare his followers for his eventual exit from the party. More likely than not, he is headed towards the BJP, which has unleashed all its organisational energies ahead of the crucial battle for the Assembly.

Whether Suvendu will be projected as the chief ministerial face of the BJP is not clear, but there is no denying the party lacks a leader with state-wide influence and one who can be acceptable to all. Suvendu has the potential to emerge as a winning leader who can challenge Mamata Banerjee. Her popularity has waned in recent years due to poor governance and corruption and controversy associated with her close lieutenants. The battlelines in Bengal, with the Congress and the Communists already forging an alliance for mutual survival, are being drawn, slowly but certainly.

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Free Press Journal