Amid speculations over his next move, West Bengal minister Suvendu Adhikari Thursday said he will not say anything controversial or unethical as long as he continues to be a member of a political party and of the state cabinet.
The influential TMC leader called himself "a 24x7 politician and not a seasonal bird".
Mr Adhikari, who has been maintaining a distance from the party leaders and did not attend even cabinet meetings for the past several months, said he is an elected leader and not a selected or a nominated one.
Adressing a mega rally of cooperative societies in East Midnapore district, he said, "Although at times the difference of opinion leads to divergent views and then results in separation, I will not say anything controversial as I am still a member of a political party."
"The media has been speculating a lot for the sake of their TRP, I am not bothered about it. I am still an active primary member of a political party; I am a member of the state cabinet. Neither has the chief minister sacked me nor have I resigned from the post. So as long as I am a minister, I can't say anything controversial. It will be unethical on my part," Mr Adhikari said.
Calling himself "a 24x7 politician and not a seasonal bird," the minister said, "Whatever posts I hold, I have been elected to all these posts. I am not a nominated leader. I am a leader who works among the masses throughout the year. Be it Cyclone Amphan or the COVID pandemic - I have been with the masses".
The minister, who holds charge of the transport department, said he will make his political announcements from a political platform.
"I won't say anything related to politics from this platform of cooperative society. Although at times the difference of opinion leads to divergent views, and then results in separation".
Calling himself "a 24x7 politician and not a seasonal bird," Mr Adhikari said, "Whatever posts I hold, I have been elected to all these posts. I am not a nominated leader. I am a leader who works among the masses throughout the year. Be it Cyclone Amphan or the COVID pandemic - I have been with the masses".
The crowd cried in unison "We are with you" to his question whether it would be on his side in the future.
Unlike on November 10 when the TMC organised a rally at Nandigram to counter Mr Adhikari's Martyrs' Day public meeting, the party cancelled the one scheduled to be organised by the party's East Midnapore district working president and MLA Akhil Giri on Thursday.
Reacting to Mr Adhikari's public meeting, the TMC said he is very much with the party.
"Suvendu Adhikari is a very senior and important leader of our party. He is very much with us. We all love and respect him a lot. I would request the media not to speculate," senior TMC MP Kalyan Bandopadhyay said.
The TMC has opened back channel talks with Mr Adhikari and is trying to address his grievances to retain him in the party.
The BJP, however, took a dig at TMC and said infighting in it reflects its days are numbered.
"No one can be happy in a political party like the TMC, which is a private limited company," West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said. Apart from East Midnapore district from where he hails, Mr Adhikari has influence in about 35-40 assembly constituencies in West Midnapore, Bankura, Purulia and Jhargram districts which fall in the tribal Jangalmahal area and in parts of Birbhum district.
This assumes significance as the state polls are due in April-May 2021 when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will seek to return to power for the third consecutive term.
He is a member of the powerful Adhikari family of East Midnapore district. His father Sisir Adhikari and younger brother Dibyendu Adhikari are TMC MPs from Tamluk and the Kanthi Lok Sabha constituencies respectively.
Mr Adhikari had played a vital role in TMC's Nandigram movement in 2007 which had helped the party come to power by ousting the 34-year-old Left Front rule in 2011.