Mamata Banerjee on Monday announced she would contest the Assembly election from Nandigram, the stronghold of Suvendu Adhikari, who abandoned the Trinamool Congress for the BJP last month.
“What will happen if I fight (the election) from Nandigram,” Mamata Banerjee asked the crowd at a rally in Nandigram. After a pause, she declared, “I will contest from Nandigram. My soul said to me, ‘Nandigram is your lucky place, Nandigram is your holy place. You should fight from Nandigram.’ I then decided to fight this election from Nandigram.”
The Chief Minister added that she would give a good candidate at Bhabanipur, the constituency in Kolkata that she has represented in Vidhan Sabha since 2011. “Bhabanipur, please don’t feel bad. I will give you a good candidate,” she said.
Later in her speech, Mamata indicated that she might contest both seats. “Nandigram is my elder sister, Bhabanipur is my younger sister… I will fight from both if possible. In case I am unable to contest from Bhabanipur, someone else will contest. I am requesting our party president Subrata Bakshi that they should consider my candidature from Nandigram,” she said.
The Trinamool’s 2007 agitation in Nandigram in Purba Medinipur district played a key role in ending the Left’s 34-year rule over West Bengal in 2011. The land agitations in Nandigram and Singur catapulted Banerjee to the political centrestage in the state. Nandigram, which was coordinated closely on the ground by Adhikari, also marked the beginning of his rise in the TMC and in the politics of the state. Adhikari was the TMC MLA from Nandigram until he resigned from the Assembly in December 2020.
On Monday, Adhikari mocked the TMC as a “private limited company”, and vowed to defeat Banerjee by a large margin. The Chief Minister’s decision to contest from Nandigram would change nothing, he told BJP workers after a massive roadshow in South Kolkata.
“The TMC is a private limited company. She and her extortionist bhaipo (nephew, a reference to the MP from Diamond Harbour Abhishek Banerjee) can announce its candidates from anywhere, but the BJP does not function like that. However, I can give it in writing that if I am fielded by my party in Nandigram, I will either defeat the honourable Chief Minister by a margin of more than 50,000 votes, or I will quit politics,” Adhikari said.
“The Chief Minister is so clever that she has announced she will be the candidate of her party from all 294 Assembly seats. Her condition has become such that she has to hire an agency from Bihar (a reference to political strategist Prashant Kishor) to sharpen her intelligence. She cannot stop the BJP this way.”
Banerjee, Adhikari alleged, remembered Nandigram only before elections: “She is playing with the sentiments of the people of Nandigram. That will not work this time, and her party will be democratically dumped into the Bay of Bengal. Today there was only 30,000 people in her public meeting who were mostly brought from other places. Tomorrow I will give her a befitting reply,” he said.
Adhikari has led the exodus of TMC leaders and workers to the BJP over the past several weeks. Over 40 Trinamool leaders joined the BJP along with Adhikari at a mega rally in Midnapore that was addressed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
In Nandigram, Banerjee said the BJP was luring leaders with the promise of turning their black money into white. “Washing powder Bhajapa (BJP); TMC mein kaala, BJP ka washing machine me shaada (black in the Trinamool, white in the BJP’s washing machine),” she said.
“Some people are moving from here to there. They will be fought by our local leaders. Don’t worry, these people (who have left) were not there when the Trinamool Congress was formed. It is good that some people have left,” she said.
“There are some in politics who are greedy. Then there are some who have loads of money, and to save that money, they have gone to the BJP.”
In Kolkata, stones were hurled and black flags were shown at the roadshow attended by Adhikari and other BJP leaders, including Medinipur MP and state party president Dilip Ghosh. In retaliation, BJP workers chased the TMC workers with sticks. The BJP said some of its workers were injured.