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Trinamul fires warning shot at Subhendu
Margin swipe hurts party

Subhendu Adhikari at a programme of imams and muezzins in Midnapore town. Picture by Samir Mondal

Calcutta, June 1: The Trinamul Congress today fired a warning shot at the Adhikaris from the shoulder of a leader who was promoted two days ago as part of attempts to clip the wings of the family.

Supporters of the Adhikaris responded by setting alight an effigy of Mukul Roy, the most powerful leader in Trinamul after Mamata Banerjee and considered the biggest beneficiary of the organisational changes announced by the chief minister on Friday, and blocking a road.

They also put up posters that said: “Didi, tomar siddhanta bhul. Kolkata lobby cholbena. (Didi, your decision is wrong. The Calcutta lobby will not do.)”

Akhil Giri, the Trinamul East Midnapore district president who has been put on a par with the Adhikari patriarch Sisir, conceded that yesterday’s statement of Subhendu Adhikari, the Tamluk MP, on the big margins of some election winners had hurt the party.

“His statement has hurt the image of the party. Other than Mamata Banerjee, there is no other popular leader in Trinamul. If I am not in Trinamul, I don’t have any popularity. The party does not depend upon the popularity of any other leader except Mamata Banerjee,” Giri said in East Midnapore.

Subhendu was replaced by Bishnupur MP Saumitra Khan as the state Trinamul Youth Congress president. Khan had switched from the Congress to Trinamul last February and is close to Mukul, with whom Adhikari junior has a running feud.

The effigy of Mukul Roy burns in East Midnapore’s Contai on Sunday night. Picture by Jahangir Badsa

Yesterday, while addressing party workers at Nandakumar, a part of the Tamluk Lok Sabha seat, Subhendu had said he knew how some people had conducted the elections and won by big margins. The statement came close on the heels of Opposition allegations of rigging in the last few phases of the Lok Sabha elections in Bengal.

Although Subhendu had said that his criticism was aimed at the CPM, the nature of Giri’s response today suggests that Trinamul is viewing itself as the target of the MP’s statement.

Giri said he would raise the controversial statement at the next meeting of the party’s state committee in which Subhendu has been appointed one of the general secretaries. “I will ask how a leader can make statements that have an adverse impact on the party’s image and demand a discussion,” Giri said.

Giri, who has been with Trinamul right from its inception, is known to be a Mamata loyalist, and he is unlikely to have made the statement against Subhendu without the approval of the leadership.

“It seems the leadership wants to send a strong message to Subhendu that he should not be seen as challenging the party leadership,” a Trinamul leader said.

Some party leaders said Giri had never been comfortable with the rise of the Adhikaris in East Midnapore. “His resentment towards the Adhikaris, especially Sisir, had drawn him towards party general secretary Mukul Roy,” a party leader said. “But basically, he is a Mamata loyalist.”

One of the factors behind the attempts to cut Subhendu to size is believed to be his popularity among youths in the Trinamul ranks. Many in the party admit that after Mamata, Subhendu is the only leader who can win elections on his own.

Giri today appeared to contest such a perception, suggesting that it would be difficult to win even a panchayat seat without Mamata and the party symbol.

“He (Subhendu) may have got a margin of 2.46 lakh votes but that does not mean he has become very popular. Aparupa Poddar (Arambagh MP) and Uma Soren (Jhargram MP) have got more votes than him. He contested the polls under the Trinamul banner and people voted for the symbol and Mamata Banerjee. Without the party symbol, it will be difficult to win even a panchayat seat,” Giri said.

He added that making changes in the organisation’s structur e was Mamata’s prerogative.

Subhendu refused to react to Giri’s comments, saying: “I won’t reply to whatever anybody says.”

At a blood donation camp in Kolaghat, Subhendu congratulated the people for “strengthening the hands of Mamatadi.”

Asked about Subhendu’s comments, Mukul and Trinamul secretary-general Partha Chatterjee, who held a joint media conference at Trinamul Bhavan, declined to respond.

“Today we will restrict ourselves to the BJP team’s disgraceful comments on the ruling party yesterday. We will not discuss any other subject here,” Chatterjee said before leaving.

Contacted later at his office, Mukul said: “I am not the Trinamul’s spokesman.”

Around noon, over 100 supporters of Subhendu obstructed the Nandigram-Sonachura Road for nearly an hour and marched through two villages in Nandigram. They raised slogans demanding that Subhendu be reinstated as the youth wing’s leader.

Trinamul sources said some party leaders later persuaded the protesters to withdraw the agitation.

Around 8pm, a group of around 20 people burnt the effigy of Mukul, about half a kilometre from the Adhikari residence. Behind the burning effigy, posters on a wall said: “Dada Subhendu Adhikari zindabad.”

Asked about the protests, Giri said: “I have heard of them. I will inquire into the matter.”