Nandigram becomes Mamata’s choice of battleground. But why?  

West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee on Friday announced the TMC candidates’ list of 291 names for the 2021 West Bengal Assembly elections and confirmed that she will be contesting the election from Nandigram.

Addressing a huge public rally at Tekhali in Nandigram on January 18, Mamata said, “Nandigram is close to my heart. I can forget my name but I cannot forget Nandigram. Considering the emotional attachment, I have with the people of Nandigram, today I am announcing that I wish to contest the upcoming poll from Nandigram.”

However, she later clarified that she is eager to contest from the Bhowanipore seat as well. “I would like to contest from both the seats because I feel that both Nandigram and Bhowanipore are like my sisters,” Mamata said.

Amit Malviya, BJP’s co-in charge in West Bengal, tweeted, “By relinquishing her traditional seat of Bhowanipore, she has already conceded defeat, even before the first vote has been cast. Bring it on. Bengal is ready for change!

In another tweet, Malviya wrote, “If the incumbent Chief Minister is unsure of winning her traditional seat, it is because she has sensed strong anti-incumbency on ground. This is just the beginning. Pishi will soon see Maa, Maati and Manush all slipping out of her hands. Bengal will finally see ashol poriborton.”

BJP Asansol MP Babul Supriyo said come May 2 and Mamata is scheduled to go. “Not fighting from Bhowanipore just shows that she is scared. It is just her fear of defeat. Mamata fought with the people of Bengal and played with their lives. Her goons don’t let people go to the booth but now the expiry date of Mamata’s rule is over. Doesn’t matter if Suvendu Adhikari fights from Nandigram or not, Mamta will lose by 50,000 votes,” said Supriyo.

Mamata’s decision to contest from Nandigram this time and relinquish the Bhowanipore seat, which she won in 2011 by-election and then again in 2016, has spiced up the battle on the seat. BJP, though not out with a candidate list, in all likelihood, will name her former close aide Suvendu Adhikari as party’s candidate from the constituency.

Mamata Banerjee vs Suvendu Adhikari confrontation has been in the pipeline since the Bengal CM compared the latter to Mir Jafar and said such betrayals have been taking place for centuries. For Mamata, the Bengal battle in Nandigram is a more personal fight because of her one-time protégé – Adhikari. For TMC, they want to take Adhikari – now a BJP trump – head-on. With Mamata focusing on just one seat, Suvendu in all likeliness will have to prepare for a bigger battle for the seat.

With several Suvendu loyalists joining the BJP after him, Mamata taking on him directly will also prove to be a morale boost for her cadre.

Nandigram, the seat Mamata chose to fight on, was once the epicentre of a farmers’ movement that propelled her and TMC to power in Bengal ten years ago. But Suvendu was the man who worked to build the party’s base in Nandigram. However, Mamata said that everyone is aware of the history, in a bid to showcase herself as the bigger leader and throttle Suvendu’s attempt to cash in on the movement’s history.

To take on the carpet bombing of election rallies that BJP has scheduled in West Bengal including those by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, Mamata fighting on two seats would not have been a prudent move. As the lone face of TMC in Bengal elections, Mamata has much ground to cover.

Relinquishing the Bhowanipore seat also sends out a message to Mamata’s detractors that the CM is confident enough to fight from one seat and win as opposed to BJP’s message of her wanting to fight from two seats since she is afraid, she might lose one.

Another probable cause of Mamata leaving the Bhowanipore seat could be the fact that from 2011 to 2016, when she won the seat – her winning margin was down 29 per cent. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections as well, TMC got a lead of just 3,500 votes from the Bhawanipur seat under the South Kolkata Lok Sabha seat.

Another important reason is the kind of message of inclusivity that Didi wants to send. According to Suvendu, whether it is Tollygunj MLA Aroop Biswas or Partha Chatterjee from Behala, Mamata favours and gives out plum posts to leaders from Kolkata and not the districts. In a city vs district fight, Mamata took to Nandigram to quash Suvendu’s claims. TMC fielded senior leader Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay from Mamata Banerjee’s home turf Bhowanipore. A poet and a singer, Chattopadhyay is a Mamata loyalist and senior leader with a popular honest image.

After switching over to the BJP, Suvendu Adhikari has often accused Mamata Banerjee of having forgotten the people of the area who helped her gain power in the state. Now, in all likelihood, Nandigram – where Mamata Banerjee and Suvendu Adhikari fought together a decade ago – will turn into a battleground between the two.

(With inputs from Anupam Mishra and Himanshu Mishra)

Source – India Today