Mamata alleges rampant rigging in Nandigram and accuses Amit Shah of instructing Central forces to help the BJP

Published : April 01, 2021 22:07 IST

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee arrives at a polling station during the second phase of the West Bengal Assembly election, at Boyal in Nandigram, on April 1. Photo: Ashok Bhaumik/PTI

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has alleged rampant rigging by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the second phase of the eight-phase Assembly election in West Bengal on April 1. She also and accused Union Home Minister Amit Shah of “instructing” the Central forces to help the BJP. Voting in Nandigram, where Mamata is taking on BJP heavyweight Suvendu Adhikari, took place on April 1, along with 29 other constituencies of Bankura, Paschim Medinipur, Purba Medinipur, and South 24 Parganas. In this phase, amid sporadic clashes the State witnessed a high turnout of voters at over 80 per cent by 5 p.m.

Lashing out at the BJP, Mamata alleged that Suvendu Adhikari, a former Minister in her Cabinet, and the BJP had been intimidating the voters with violence. “We have already submitted 63 complaints to the Election Commission and also others,” said Mamata. She claimed that her concern was not about the election result in Nandigram but on the threat to democracy. “I will win in Nandigram with the blessing of Maa, Maati, Maanush (Mother, Land and People – Trinamool’s political catchphrase). People have voted for me, but I will say that the BJP has cheated here,” said Mamata, adding that “90 per cent of the people voted for Trinamool”. She said that “democracy was the festival of the people” and the BJP was marring it by not allowing people to cast their votes. She claimed that the Union Home Minister “himself has instructed the CRPF, the BSF and other jawans to help only the BJP”. Mamata also hit out at the Election Commission for its “silence” and accused it of “a one-sided support to the BJP”.

Both the Trinamool and the BJP have accused each other of bringing in “outsiders” into Nandigram to create an atmosphere of terror. “They have brought in goons from outside, who do not even know how to speak in Bengali,” Mamata said. She also attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was campaigning Uluberia (Howrah) and Joynagar (South 24 Parganas) for the third phase, even as voting was going on for the second phase. “Why should Narendra Modi campaign on election days? Why will the Prime Minister of the country address the people here on every election day, accompanied by all agencies? Is it not a violation of the election rules? They are trying whatever they can, but I am sorry, for one day they will have to answer for this. We will give them the befitting result,” said Mamata.

Tension at polling station

For two hours Mamata remained at a polling station in Boyal in Nandigram as the situation outside simmered with tension with BJP and Trinamool workers arrayed on two sides ready for violence. Shouts of “Jai Shri Ram” greeted Mamata as she arrived in the region, and a large security force struggled to maintain peace in the area. Mamata claimed that 80 per cent of the votes polled there were “Chhappa votes” (false votes) and that she would take the matter to court.

Tipped as the ‘main event’ in the ongoing election, Nandigram presented contrasting pictures of the two contending leaders. While Mamata appeared frustrated and angry, Suvendu Adhikari sounded confident and even cheerful. “More than 90 per cent polling will take place in the booths where we have a strong presence. Our booth management is very strong…. Earlier there was no opposition here nor any resistance because I was in the Trinamool; so there were no complaints either. This time there is very strong competition,” said Suvendu Adhikari. Blaming a “certain community” for the violence, he said, “It [violence] is not happening everywhere. In a few booths where the presence of a certain community is strong, it is taking place. In the other booths there are devotees of Jai Shri Ram, Hare Krishna, Ma Kali, Ma Durga, they are all calm.”

The main thrust of Suvendu Adhikari’s campaign in Nandigram has been aimed at creating a divide in the electorate on communal lines. Nandigram, which has a Muslim population of over 30 per cent, does not have a history of communal discord and Suvendu Adhikari’s attempt to polarise the Hindu votes, as evident in his election campaigns, is an indication that he perhaps feels he is not likely to get any support from the Muslim voters in the region. Interestingly, before switching to the BJP in December 2020, Suvendu Adhikari was considered one of the most influential secular mass leaders of Trinamool.

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