Rise & rise of Abhishek and how it’s biting Trinamool (IANS SPecial)

By Soudhriti Bhabani
Kolkata, Dec 23 : For West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee, it has been like a journey from the rags to riches. The Diamond Harbour MP made his first political appearance exactly a decade ago, when the Trinamool Congress stormed to power in 2011, toppling the world’s longest-serving Communist government in Bengal.

He was practically para-dropped to the political scenes of this eastern state, having no prior connection with the mainstream movements of Nandigram and Singur land acquisition which had rocked the nation with widespread protests.

Abhishek, the second most powerful name in the Trinamool Congress’ rank and file now, had publicly come to the centre stage of politics on July 21, 2011 when the party had observed its first Martyrs’ Day celebrations in Kolkata, barely two months after the formation of the state government. He was just 24 at the time.

In a country that thrives on dynasty politics, junior Banerjee, son of Mamata’s elder brother Amit Banerjee, had joined the bandwagon amid much fanfare of cheering Trinamool supporters that day. It was all fine, till then. But Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee slowly decided to catapult her nephew as the next generation leader of the Trinamool Congress.

To remember, Abhishek’s name was announced by Banerjee as the president of the All India Trinamool Yuva – a platform apparently launched to give the nephew some room in the state’s political arena. The newly-floated party body was a brainchild of Banerjee to bridge the gap between the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad and the Trinamool Youth Congress. And she had chosen Abhishek to take over the party’s newly formed youth arm. Under Abhishek’s leadership, Trinamool Congress Yuva had started accepting membership from those in the 21-35 age group.

Abhishek’s emergence gave birth to a new chapter of dynasty politics in Bengal.

Clad in starched white kurta and branded footwear – a style similar to the new-breed of national leaders – Abhishek’s rimless glasses and gelled hair was a far cry from Banerjee’s ordinary cotton saris and white flip-flops.

Considered as extremely arrogant by many within the party, Banerjee’s nephew took full advantage of being a family man and utilised it to the hilt. The first hurdle came when he tried to gain ground within the party from then second-in-command in Trinamool, Mukul Roy, who later joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Roy is currently a national vice-president of the BJP.

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According to sources, after winning the election from the Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha constituency, Abhishek took over the control of the party’s organisational parts (mainly financial control) from Roy which never went down well with Banerjee’s once most trusted lieutenant. It led to the first major defection in the Trinamool Congress as Roy quit in September, 2017, after the controversial Narada sting operation. Roy stood as a stiff challenge before Abhishek for the No. 2 position in the party that he was eyeing then.

Abhishek was never into the day-to-day activities of the party. He used to look after the party’s cyber team and headed the online campaign ahead of the state Assembly elections in 2011. He was mostly busy with creating communities on Orkut and Facebook along with a small team, and managed to mobilise a marginal section of the city youth, mostly from well-to-do families. He helped enhance the party’s web presence with various online campaigns on social networking sites in the run-up to the crucial state Assembly elections in 2011.

Asked about the current crisis within the party, especially among the young leaders following the emergence of Abhshek, veteran Trinamool Congress Lok Sabha MP Sougata Roy said that it could have been one of the reasons for many key leaders within Trinamool Congress defecting from the party.

“Perhaps it could be a reason for many key party leaders for not being happy or to quit. But I don’t know much as I am not a young politician,” the party’s key trouble-shooter Roy told IANS.

Abhishek’s authoritarian approach did antagonise former Trinamool Lok Sabha MP and West Bengal minister Suvendu Adhikari, Soumitra Khan, Anupam Hazra (all are now with the BJP in Bengal) and many others, especially the young Turks. There were dissenting notes coming out from within the party. It had sent a wrong signal to the people at the grassroots level where Trinamool Congress was viewed as a proletarian political force, after the outgoing Left Front.

Adhikari’s recent statement after he joined the BJP last week re-established the cold resentment over Abhishek’s phenomenal rise in the Trinamool Congress.

“Now I say ‘tolabaaj bhaipo hatao’ (get rid of your extortionist nephew),” Adhikari said at the BJP’s mega public rally in West Midnapore’s college ground. Touted as the next big face of the BJP in Bengal, Adhikari joined the saffron fold last week in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

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As many as seven sitting legislators of the Trinamool Congress, including one of Banerjee’s former trusted aides Suvendu Adhikari, and three others from the Left Front and the Congress joined the BJP that day.

Among the 10 MLAs who jumped ship to the BJP, Adhikari is the only one who has submitted his resignation to the Assembly so far. Trinamool’s Burdwan-East Lok Sabha MP Sunil Mandal, former minister Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, former Lok Sabha member from north Bengal’s Alipurduar Dasrath Tirkey, many MLAs and 15 civic body councillors from the Trinamool and other parties picked up the BJP flag along with at least 20 district-level leaders.

“Adhikari has played it really well over the last one year. It was not a hasty decision on his part. He was just waiting for the right time. He prepared the blueprint very carefully. There will be more such political surprises in the days to come. People will get to see that as the elections draw closer. People in the party (Trinamool Congress) are not very happy with Abhishek’s leadership,” said a Trinamool insider, on condition of anonymity.

Sources said the appointment of political strategist Prashant Kishor’s agency in Bengal was the last nail in its coffin as many top ministers and public representatives lost their independence to function smoothly in their respective constituencies.

The situation went so out of control that Trinamool supremo Banerjee had to step in and say at a rally in Bankura district: “I want to clear one thing…I want to tell you as a party worker, I am the observer of the party. Every movement in the bloc level, including who is keeping touch with whom, I am keeping a record of everything from A-Z.”

Meanwhile, dissenting notes have also came out recently from many top Trinamool leaders, including state Forest Minister Rajib Banerjee who had openly criticised the party’s style of functioning. Two rounds of talks were held already by Trinamool’s Secretary General and state Education Minister Partha Chatterjee to resolve the issues with Rajib Banerjee.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-generated from IANS service.

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