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Club chair to Delhi seat of power

Calcutta, Oct. 28: Adhir Chowdhury’s career from a small-time Congress leader to a central junior minister has been a checkered one.

His detractors say he was a local tough but no one now denies that Adhir is the Congress’s face in Murshidabad.

His associates in Behrampore recount that the Congress had only six legislators from Murshidabad in the Assembly in 2006 but in 2011, its tally rose to 14 out of the 22 seats in the district.

“The Congress’s rise at the expense of the CPM was possible only because of Adhirda’s organisational clout,” said Asoke Das, Murshidabad district party general secretary.

Adhir became the Murshidabad district Congress president in 2002 and the next year the party wrested the zilla parishad from the CPM.

In the early 1980s, Adhir was the president of a small club in Gorabazar in Behrampore town. He made a name by connecting with people through sporting events that he organised. His associates say he stood by those in distress, particularly widows and orphans.

Adhir’s first brush with Congress politics was in 1991 when he was made a candidate for Nabagram in Murshidabad, a seat the Left held.

Adhir was an accused in a murder case then. He lost the election and went into hiding.

In 1996, he was again made the nominee from Nabagram. He contested in absentia and won by 22,000 votes.

“The victory in 1996 marked the first turning point in Adhirda’s political career and since then he has not looked back. The second turning point came when he won the Behrampore Lok Sabha seat in 1999. Since then, he has won Behrampore three consecutive times,” Das said.

In 2003, Adhir’s writ was established in Murshidabad when the Congress wrested the zilla parishad from the CPM. The next year, Adhir helped Pranab Mukherjee win the Jangipur Lok Sabha seat. Mukherjee won the 2009 Lok Sabha polls also from Jangipur.

When Mukherjee had to relinquish the seat before moving to Rashtrapati Bhavan in July, Adhir’s famed clout steered the President’s son, Abhijit, to victory. “The person who was dumped as a small-time leader became Pranab Mukherjee’s Man Friday,” one of Adhir’s associates said, hinting at the tough seat Adhir was given in 1991 and 1996 by senior leaders.

In 2006, Adhir’s name figured in a double murder and he was arrested from his Delhi residence. Subsequently, his name was cleared in the case.