The Telegraph
Saturday , May 31 , 2014
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Down: father and son; Up: nephew

Calcutta, May 30: A game of familial snakes-and-ladders has unfolded in the Trinamul Congress with Mamata Banerjee trying to cut the Adhikari family to size and offering a formal party post to her nephew.

Subhendu Adhikari, credited with making Trinamul an unchallenged force in Nandigram and dramatically changing the political fortunes of the party, was today removed as the Trinamul Youth Congress state president.

Trinamul has also challenged the authority of his father Sisir Adhikari as the East Midnapore district president by appointing an arch-rival of the veteran as another president of the district unit.

The significance of the Adhikaris lies in the fact that the family stands out as the sole segment in Trinamul that can win elections on its own steam and without riding piggyback on Mamata.

Trinamul circles are seeing in the recast an attempt to clip the wings of the father and the son, who have emerged as a power centre in East Midnapore, at a time the party has won 34 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal.

Subhendu has been made a general secretary of the state unit, a post that offers little consolation as he is one among seven such office-bearers. Siuli Saha, the Haldia MLA who is considered a rival of Adhikari Junior, has also been appointed to the same post.

Rubbing salt into Subhendu’s wounds, the youth wing post vacated by him has been filled by a first-time MP who switched from the Congress a few months ago. The son of senior leader Mukul Roy, Subhrangshu, has also been given a powerful post in the youth wing.

At the same time, Mamata’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee has been inducted into the Trinamul Congress’s state committee.

The move, coming close on the heels of Abhishek’s victory in the Lok Sabha polls from the Diamond Harbour constituency, is being seen as an attempt to give the youngster an opportunity to learn the ropes and prepare himself for a larger role in the future.

Although Adhikari Senior continues to head the East Midnapore district unit, Akhil Giri, the Ramnagar MLA and his rival since the inception of the party in 1998, has also been made a president of the same district unit.

A clear signal that Subhendu’s claim to be the sole youth leader of the party was under threat had come in 2011 when Mamata formed the All India Trinamul Yuva, a frontal organisation, and handed its reins to Abhishek. (The state committee membership announced today is Abhishek’s first official post in the parent party.)

Trinamul leaders said Subhendu was never comfortable with the parallel organisation. “Subhendu is extremely popular among the youth. Now that he is no longer at the helm, Yuva will get priority,” said a Trinamul leader.

Subhendu said he remained loyal to the party and Mamata. “This is the party’s decision and I will abide by it. I took charge in the most critical phase of the party. I will do as directed,” Subhendu told The Telegraph this evening.

Some sources suggested that rivalry between Subhendu and Mukul may have played a part in the changes.

According to Trinamul sources, the organisational changes have been made to prepare the party for the 2016 Assembly polls as Mamata wanted to induct fresh blood and send out a strong message to “truant” leaders.

The changes also make it clear that Mukul continues to play a key role in organisational matters. “Mukul has managed to get most of his close aides into key positions in the organisation,” said a source.

Announcing the changes at the Netaji Indoor Stadium, Mamata said: “We are for the five Ds: determination, dedication, devotion, development and direction.”

She also referred to a factor that seemed to be playing on her mind. “There was a BJP wave throughout the country but we were able to stop it here. They are leading in 18 Assembly segments and we have to reach out to the people to stop this,” she said.