Elections 2021

Nandigram, the biggest battle of 2021 elections

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on May 02, 2021

TMC activists celebrate winning trend in Kolkata   -  Swapan Mahapatra

Mamata personally managed the campaign against her one-time protege Suvendu Adhikari

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who will assume a third term in office, has emergedthe giant killer of the 2021 Assembly polls in West Bengal. Results of Nandigram are yet to be declared officially with both parties — the Trinamool and the BJP — claiming a win.

While the fight is expected go down to the wire, against her protégé-turned-bête noire Suvendu Adhikari, Mamata has shaken the Adihikari citadels of Purba and Paschim Midnapore that many, including the BJP, thought were impregnable.

At the time of going to press, the ECI website showed Banerjee is leading by close to 2,000 votes. The Trinamool Congress is demanding a recount in Nandigram, and Banerjee has alleged that “there is some mischief” and said she would approach the court against the result. “How come one constituency has given a verdict that is completely against the mandate of the people of the State? They did some arrangement there. My people are telling me. I will move court against the results there,” she said.

As an afterthought, Banerjee added: “I know it does not matter for one seat. My party has got a resounding majority across the State.”

Rules state that Banerjee can still be sworn in Chief Minister despite losing an election; however, she has to win a by-election to continue holding the office.

National aspirations

Hinting at national aspirations, she said the Centre should look at free vaccination immediately for the entire 138-crore eligible population. “I speak on behalf of India. A cost of ₹30,000 crore for free vaccination is not at all an issue for the Centre. They have the RBI, can release bonds or so on,” Banerjee said while threatening to go on a dharna if her demand is not met.

Calling her “double century mandate” as “a landslide victory and a resounding win”, Banerjee said: “It’s not a double engine. But a double century now. Bengal saved India and its democracy. We will give free vaccines to all here. Everybody should now shut up. And some officials, who sided with outsiders, remember that I am watching you. I know what you did.”

Most difficult fight

Incidentally, Nandigram was the most fiercely contested seat. The Chief Minister herself took charge of the campaign there, supervising the poll-preparedness which probably ensured in the neck-and-neck fight.

Banerjee posted a battery of senior leaders to Nandigram to oversee the poll preparations. Trinamool’s national secretary Subrata Bakshi, veteran peasant movement leader Purnendu Bose, and MP Dola Sen, among others had camped in Nandigram for weeks.

The Nandigram campaign took a communal turn with Suvendu Adhikari name-calling the local Muslims.

Banerjee gave up contesting in Bhowanipore from where she had been returned in her previous two terms. The Trinamool secured a win in Bhownaipore and many had argued against Banerjee’s switch.

After Adhikari repeatedly challenged her to contest at Nandigram, Banerjee was left with no option but to accept it from her one-time-protégé. It was never an easy battle for her. It was one that Banerjee had to take-up in order to re-establish her political supremacy.

Published on May 02, 2021

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