By announcing her candidature from Nandigram Assembly seat, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has made her first major move since poll dates were announced last Friday.
Her decision to contest from Nandigram alone ends the two-month long speculation of her fighting from two seats – Nandigram and Bhabanipur, her current constituency.
In January, Banerjee had announced her candidature from Nandigram — a seat held by Suvendu Adhikari who dumped TMC to join BJP.
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“What if I contest seat in Nandigram. How will that be…,” she had asked her cheering supporters at a public rally at Tekhali in Nandigram on January 18. “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,” Mamata had said.
Later in the day, Adhikari responded to Banerjee’s Nandigram dare saying the West Bengal chief minister will lose by 50,000 votes or else he would quit politics.
“By opting to contest from Nandigram only, Mamata has taken the fight directly into BJP’s doorstep,” says an analyst who follows West Bengal politics. “Didi must have gathered enough ground level feedback before making this move,” he said.
But is Nandigram a risky move by Banerjee as politicians rarely take such political gamble?
“This is throw of the dice style politics by Mamata,” said senior journalist Subir Bhaumik, who has been following Banerjee’s politics for many years.
“Mamata has killed several birds with her single Nandigram move,” Bhaumik feels. “West Bengal CM moving back to her political roots will further underline her pro-poor image,” he said. Her move is also an attempt to reclaim Nandigram legacy and cut down the Adhikari clan’s influence in the region.
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The Adhikari family wields considerable influence in the Purba Medinipur and neighbouring districts including Paschim Medinipur, Purulia and Bankura.
“Banerjee has made this electoral fight look like a David vs. Goliath battle, where she is up against BJP’s formidable election machinery and money power,” said Bhowmik. Political strategist Prashant Kishor’s meticulous planning could also be behind Banerjee’s move, hinted Bhaumik.
If the BJP decides to field Adhikari against Banerjee, then that will tie Adhikari to Nandigram till April 1, when the seat goes to polls in the second phase.
Further, Nandigram has around 35-40% Muslim voters and a sizeable Dalit population who are dedicated TMC voters. All eyes will be on battleground Nandigram as a resurgent BJP takes on Mamata, in a constituency that had sent her to power in 2011.
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