Battle for Nandigram: BJP fields Suvendu Adhikari against ex-boss Mamata Banerjee
Kolkata, Mar 06: Suvendu Adhikari, once close aide to Mamata Banerjee, is all set to fight Bengal elections against her from Nandigram on a Bharatiya Janata Party ticket.
The much awaited contest became official after the BJP released its first list of 57 candidates for the West Bengal assembly poll.
Banerjee and Adhikari were the prominent figures of the anti-land acquisition movement in Nandigram in 2007 that ultimately catapulted the firebrand Trinamool Congress supremo to power in West Bengal in 2011 ending 34-year-old rule of the Left Front.
Former Indian cricketer Ashoke Dinda and ex-IPS officer Bharati Ghosh are among the BJP candidates, party general secretary Arun Singh said at a press conference, adding that it has conceded one seat to ally AJSU.
With this the party has announced candidates for all but three of the 60 seats which will go to polls in the first two of the eight-phase elections to be held between March 27 and April 29.
Adhikari had won from the seat in 2016 and resigned recently before crossing over to the saffron party.
Banerjee announced her candidature from the seat while leaving her traditional constituency of Bhowanipore in Kolkata.
The battle for Nandigram
The feisty TMC boss was its guiding spirit, while Adhikari was her general on the ground, oganising mass protests against the SEZ where Indonesia''s Salim group intended to set up a chemical hub.
Adhikari''s father Sisir, currently a TMC Lok Sabha member, was the convenor of the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC), which comprised people from disparate political ideologies. The TMC, Congress, RSS and even disgruntled members of the Left parties--all waged a united struggle against the government.
With the Left and the Congress pushed to the margins of West Bengal politics, a bitter and bloody political battle looms over Nandigram between Banerjee''s TMC and the BJP.
Political rallies of rival parties are being attacked and people injured.
Nandigram assembly constituency has around 70 per cent Hindus, while Muslims account for the rest, and names give away the political preferences of the residents.
Local leaders of both the TMC and the BJP maintain the shoots of a communal divide became visible after the 2013 panchayat polls when elected Muslim members were given prominent roles in Zilla Parishads and the ruling party''s district unit. The rift widened further after the 2018 panchayat elections.
The disaffection prompted the Hindu right to assert itself with a massive Ram Navami rally in Nandigram in 2016. Locals said many TMC workers and leaders actively participated in it.
The results were quick for all to see. The BJP, with hardly any support base in the area dominated by the TMC, bagged over 1.96 lakh votes in the 2016 byelections to Tamluk Lok Sabha seat and finished third. In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the BJP further consolidated it position, with its candidate cinching over 5.34 lakh votes.
Dibyendu Adhikari, a younger brother of Suvendu Adhikari won both the elections. Dibyendu and the Adhikari family patriarch Sisir are both TMC Lok Sabha members but had given Mamata Banerjee''s Monday rally a miss.
The BJP had won 18 Lok Sabha seats in last Parliamentary poll out of total 42 constituencies in Bengal, only four less than TMC's tally of 22.
Voting in Nandigram will be held on April 1 during Phase-2 of the West Bengal elections.