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Mamata Faces Nandigram Test Before 2021 Polls as TMC Leader Suspended for Corruption Shows Strength

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee virtually inaugurates community puja pandals ahead of Durga Puja festival, at Nabanna in Kolkata, on October 15, 2020. (PTI Photo)

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee virtually inaugurates community puja pandals ahead of Durga Puja festival, at Nabanna in Kolkata, on October 15, 2020. (PTI Photo)

The trouble started after TMC leader Sheikh Shahabuddin, his wife Mansura Bibi, who's a gram panchayat pradhan, and two other powerful leaders were officially suspended for their alleged role in malpractices while distributing Cyclone Amphan relief materials to affected people.

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Sujit Nath

In the midst of an internal feud in the party, Nandigram in East Midnapore has become the latest worry for Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee. This after influential TMC leader Sheikh Shahabuddin, who was suspended on disciplinary charges, warned that the party leadership should resolve "the differences" or else the Trinamool will cease to exist in Nandigram.

In protest against the party’s decision to remove him, Shahabuddin organised a Shakti Pradarshan (show of strength) rally in Nandigram and alleged that he became a victim of the TMC's internal politics.

“There are allegations against me that I have siphoned off money sanctioned for (cyclone) Amphan affected people in the area. Yesterday, I organised a rally and a sea of people attended it. If I am corrupt, do you think that the local people would have supported me through this rally?” Shahabuddin said. “All the charges against me are baseless and fabricated. I have not yet received any suspension letter from Mamata Banerjee. I would like to request her to resolve the issues concerning me because in future I can see that there won’t be any existence of TMC in Nandigram.”

Sheikh Shahabuddin is a very influential and powerful leader in Nandigram and his support to any political party will be a key factor in the 2021 assembly polls in West Bengal.

Nandigram, a small hamlet in East Midnapore district, was once the epicentre of Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee’s land movement in 2007 and it was from here that she went on to the corridors of power in Bengal.

The trouble in Nandigram started after Shahabuddin, his wife Mansura Bibi (gram panchayat pradhan of Kendemari village), and two other powerful leaders were officially suspended by the TMC on October 13, 2020, for their alleged role in malpractices while distributing Amphan relief to affected people.

The TMC took the decision after all four of them refused to step down despite the party's order a few days back.

It was learnt that Mansura Bibi refused to obey the party's command and she continued as the gram panchayat pradhan of Kendemari area after being advised by her husband Shahabuddin.

Senior party MP and TMC East Midnapore district president Sisir Adhikari had said, “Some people were involved in corruption out of greed. The party has taken the decision and one should obey it.”

In the past three months, more than 350 party cadres including 200 from East Midnapore’s Nandigram were sent show-cause notices, mainly over malpractices during Cyclone Amphan and the aftermath.

They were asked to return the public money within a few days failing which the party would lodge police complaints against them.

In Birbhum, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and a few other districts, too, the TMC is facing similar internal rift over reshuffling of party leaders ahead of the polls.


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