The Battle of Plassey was fought in 1757 on the banks of the Hooghly river and helped the British seize control of Bengal. Nearly three centuries later, about 300 kilometres south of the Hooghly river, Nandigram is the new Plassey, where the mother of all political clashes in West Bengal is taking place this election season.
Union home minister Amit Shah will hold a massive road show in Nandigram on Tuesday (March 30), drumming up support for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nominee Suvendu Adhikari ahead of polling in the high-profile assembly constituency on April 1.
But, as a strong counter, chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who faces her lieutenant-turned-challenger Adhikari in the seat, will organise two road shows on Monday (March 29) and Tuesday (March 30) in both blocks of the constituency.
In fact, beginning Sunday, the core of political action shifts to Nandigram with Banerjee returning to Nandigram for the first time after she suffered injuries there during campaigning on March 10. She will be camping there for three days till Tuesday, will participate in 10 public events, and stay in the house arranged for her.
Banerjee will arrive in Nandigram at 4pm on Sunday to participate in a mela (fair), and will later hold a rally in Birulia, the area where she was injured. On Monday, she will begin her day with a road show in Nandigram’s block number two, followed by three more rallies. On Tuesday, too, her day will begin with a road show in block number one, followed by three rallies. She is expected to hold her road shows in a wheelchair, which she has used for political events since she was released from a Kolkata hospital two days after suffering the injuries. Campaigning for Nandigram ends on Tuesday evening.
“She will win comfortably in Nandigram. There is no anger against her amongst the people…she will win her seat, defeating Suvendu Mukherjee by a comfortable margin,” a leader of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) said.
With Banerjee pulling out all the stops in Nandigram, the BJP is also bringing out its big guns with focus on home minister Shah’s massive road show on Tuesday; it will take place when Banerjee will be present in the constituency. Other star campaigners of the BJP, such as cine star Mithun Chakraborty, will also head for Nandigram over the next three days, spicing up Bengal’s most-talked-about electoral contest in which the BJP hopes to inflict a defeat on Banerjee. The party believes Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in neighbouring Kanthi, or Contai, on March 24 will help Adhikari’s cause. Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan has been camping in the seat to shore up support for Adhikari, who has come up with a special manifesto for Nandigram.
In an interview to News18 on Friday, senior BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya said Adhikari will defeat the CM. “Banerjee has already lost confidence about the Nandigram seat,” Vijayvargiya said in the interview. He added that Nandigram’s people were actually waiting for Banerjee to come (and contest the seat) so that they can teach her a lesson. “…she had assured that she would bring industry to Nandigram and also improve agriculture. For 10 years, she remained the chief minister but she did not do any development…Whatever development happened there was done by Adhikari (who won the assembly seat in 2016 on a TMC ticket),” Vijayvargiya said.
On Saturday, the BJP also released a purported audio recording, claiming the CM reached out to a BJP functionary in East Midnapore for his support; Nandigram falls in that district. The BJP said this showed desperation on the CM’s part because she knew “she was set to lose” the seat. The TMC, however, dismissed the audio clip as a fabricated one.