National

Mamata to contest Assembly election from Nandigram

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on January 18, 2021

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addressed a public rally in Nadigram on Monday   -  PTI

Her role in protests against land acquisition there 14 years ago, brought her to centrestage

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday announced that she will be contesting the upcoming Assembly elections from Nandigram, the epicenter of a violent anti-land acquisition farmer movement, 14 years ago.

The movement thrust Banerjee into the national limelight and was instrumental in ousting the Left Front here.

Located nearly 140 kilometres from Kolkata, the area in the district of East Medinipur is the constituency and stronghold of her one-time right hand man and confidante, Suvendu Adhikari, who recently shifted to the BJP.

“Nandigram has been lucky for me and this time I will contest polls from here,” she said while addressing a public rally. The killing of 14 villagers in clashes with the police became a rallying point for Banerjee in subsequent elections and she coined her now famous, “Ma, Maati, Manush” slogan around that incident.

According to Trinamool insiders, the West Bengal Chief Minister will contest elections from two seats; one being Nandigram and the other being Bhowanipore, her current constituency in the heart of Kolkata.

Rebel leader’s home turf

Nandigram, an Adhikari family’s stronghold, sees Suvendu Adhikari’s writ run large across the area and district. His father Sisir and brother Dibyendu, are Parliamentarians. Suvendu was hailed as Trinamool Congress’ ‘Nandigram hero’ for spear-heading the farmers’ movement until his acrimonious fallout.

In a way, the Chief Minister – by choosing Nandigram – has acknowledged the rebel leader as a potential threat.

Two hours after Banerjee’s announcement to contest elections from Suvendu’s home turf, the latter came back with a sharp retort, “I will either defeat her or I will quit politics.” Political observers say the move serves the “twin purpose” of “rejuvenating workers in the district” while making the rebel leader concentrate on his home-turf. The push that Suvendu had been getting in the saffron fold – being prime speaker across rallies in different districts of the state and cashing in on his “rustic appeal” in rural areas outside East Medinipur district – will see some slowdown.

Voter profile at play

“It is a decision taken out of frustration and not political acumen. She will lose both Nandigram and Bhowanipore seats,” Kailash Vijayvargia, National General Secretary, BJP told BusinessLine adding that in Ward 73 of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation – the area where Mamata Banerjee lives – her party was trailing by 500 votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

According to Biswanath Chakraborty, political analyst, a continuous Bengali – Non-Bengali divide in recent times does not gel well with Bhowanipore’s voter profile – a posh South Kolkata area.

Nearly a third of the voters are non-Bengali speaking populace that includes Gujratis, Tamil and Marwaris. Voting patterns could change. In contrast, Nandigram has a 30 per cent minority population- a segment most unlikely to vote for the saffron camp. So Banerjee stands at an advantage there.

“Continuously dividing voters into regional lines, based on language, may actually be detrimental in urban constituencies. But,a polarised voting could help her in select seats,” he explained.

Published on January 18, 2021

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