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Police act against Suvendu supporters

The incident comes at a time when a war of words has started between TMC MP Kalyan Banerjee and Mr Adhikari.

Statesman News Service | Siliguri |

Amid rising speculations over the political future of Trinamul Congress heavyweight Suvendu Adhikari, Siliguri Police today stopped the state transport minister’s team from displaying and putting up banners and posters on the banks of the Mahananda river where thousands of people had descended for the Chhath Puja celebrations.

The incident comes at a time when a war of words has started between TMC MP Kalyan Banerjee and Mr Adhikari. Sources said Mr Adhikari’s team displayed some banners with his photo that simply greeted people on the occasion of Kali Puja, Diwali and Chhath.

Police intercepted the vehicle carrying the banners and detained the driver for interrogation and was released later. Police officers failed to say if it was detention or arrest, and merely said he was taken to the police station for questioning.

Many Trinamul leaders said that this was perhaps for the first time that police acted in Siliguri on Mr Adhikari’s issue. Darjeeling district TMC president Ranjan Sarkar said he was unaware of such development. “However, if anyone violates the law, the law will take its own course. It has no political connection. I will look into this,” he said.

A TMC leader who is involved in putting up such hoardings said they were surprised with the ‘proactive’ role of the police. “We wanted to wish people on the occasions of religious festivals, but we are surprised with the police move. We have earlier put up similar hoardings in the town and it is nothing illegal.

Though the person has been released, he was roughed up. Suvendu Adhikari is still in the party and a cabinet minister, and we do not know why it was necessary to take such a step,” he said.

Notably, followers of Mr Adhikari has been putting up banners and posters across the state, covering all districts. According to political observers, if Mr Adhikari quits the TMC, the party will face a setback ahead of the Assembly elections in 2021.

“As a result, a section of senior TMC leaders, following instructions from party chief Mamata Banerjee, have started dialogue with Mr Adhikari,” a source said. Notably, after election strategist Prashant Kishor visited Mr Adhikari’s house recently, MP Sougata Roy talked to him and reported it to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, as the rebel leader refused to talk to Mr Kishor over the phone.

“Suvendu does not have any demand, but he has some grievances. We will talk again very shortly,” Mr Roy said today. However, significantly, MP Kalyan Banerjee has been attacking Mr Adhikari even allegedly at the personal level. Mr Adhikari, who did not make his stand clear yesterday, today indirectly criticised Mr Banerjee, citing an example of another former MP during the Left regime who used indecorous words against Miss Banerjee and how people of Hooghly rejected him.

Following that, Mr Banerjee, a legal practitioner, attacked him and even his family members on a TV show, over the Nandigram issue and their role after he managed a CBI probe order. It may be noted here that several political observers and people were upset after he failed to make his stand clear, a section of observers today said that Mr Adhikari “will not go with Mamata Banerjee’s party in 2021.”

“I am the same today, as I was yesterday,” Mr Adhikari, meanwhile, said this evening.

Undemocratic, says BJP

On the other hand, the general secretary of the Siliguri (Organisational) District of the BJP, Anandamay Barman, said there was nothing wrong in some people putting up banners on behalf of minister Adhikari to greet people. “The step of the police shows an undemocratic nature of the state government,” he said.