In 2011, Nandigram was a key constituency for the Trinamool Congress (TMC) since it was depending heavily on the peasants' agitation there to succeed in its mission to topple the 34-year-old regime of the Left Front.
In 2016, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, who covered almost all constituencies in the state during her gruelling two-month-long campaigning, did not campaign in Nandigram, which went to the polls in the seventh and final phase on May 5. [List of 25 seats of May 5]
Even when the TMC is fighting serious charges of corruption that have made the anti-incumbency mood heavy, the chief minister takes the luxury of overlooking Nandigram, which was one of its major source of inspiration five years ago, along with Singur in Hooghly. Banerjee campaigned in Singur also but did not in Nandigram. [Mamata's superhuman effort in covering month-long poll]
East Midnapore is TMC's fortress now, come whatever may
There are enough reasons to be confident for the TMC supremo. The party itself believes that it has already acheived the magic figure of 148 (Assembly has 294 seats in all) and if the cynics and critics still do not believe it, statistics of the recent past suggest that the TMC is the only force looking serious in the East Midnapore district.
In 2011, the TMC won all the 16 constituencies in East Midnapore. If the results of the 2014 Lok Sabha election is converted into the Assembly segments, still it is the TMC which dominates. In the 2013 panchayat election, too, the TMC swept the district. There is very little chance of a reversal this time, including in Nandigram.
Left has lost Nandigram, thanks to its 'SEZ' blunder of 2007
In 2007, the then Left government led by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee planned to set up a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Nandigram. An area of 10,000 acres was supposed to be developed by Indonesia-based Salim Group into a chemical hub. The land was to be forcefully snathced but the villagers rose in protest. In January 2007, the protesters cut off all communication with the village, making it isolated from the administration.
In March that year, Bhattacharjee ordered a police raid in the village and in the chaos that followed, 14 villagers were killed in firing and more than 70 were injured. The Left government faced a backlash and the Marxists were accused of betraying their ideals and were even termed "red capitalists".
For Banerjee, it was more than a golden opportunity to achieve what she had been aiming since 2001 when her party had first contested a state election. She backed the peasants and gave a war cry of Maa, Maati, Manush (mother, motherland, people). Her movement gained momentum as the civil society too joined the protest against the Left government and the SEZ plan was called off.
Allegations make little difference for TMC
Along with Singur, Nandigram hence became another major pillar of strength for Banerjee to uproot the long Left rule in Bengal. Today, the Opposition and the anti-establishment media have been making allegations against the TMC government of not fulfilling its promises and instead the party is indulging in corruption, but Banerjee's party knows only bringing charges will not hurt it.
Banerjee has a big support in the Adhikaris here who are yet to see a matching counter force. The Left, on the other hand, "will require another 100 years to gain ground here after the Nandigram episode", said a local. The TMC might not have done the best in keeping its promises made to Nandigram but yet there is enough reason for it to reap the benefits of doubt still.