Mamata throws a challenge to Suvendu Adhikari, announces her decision to contest from his bastion of Nandigram; Trinamool candidates list out

Published : March 05, 2021 22:46 IST

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee after announcing the list of Trinamool Congress candidates for the Assembly election, in Kolkata on March 5. Photo: PTI

The stage is set for the most important and dramatic electoral contest in the Assembly election in Bengal, as the two biggest mass leaders of the State – Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee and Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Suvendu Adhikari – prepare to square up against each other in Nandigram. On February 5, Mamata announced, while releasing the list of Trinamool candidates for the election, that she will contest from Suvendu’s stronghold of Nandigram and not her usual constituency of Bhowanipore. Although the BJP is yet to release its list of candidates, according to sources Suvendu is likely to take on his former party chief in his own turf. Mamata also hinted at a possibility of contesting from Tollygunje.

In the 2021 Assembly election, which is being perceived as a do-or-die battle for the Trinamool, Mamata has staked a lot by choosing to fight only from Nandigram – a bastion of Suvendu Adhikari and his family. Suvendu, one of the most powerful Trinamool Ministers before he defected to the B JP in December 2020, is considered to be the biggest mass leader in south Bengal after Mamata Banerjee. Even if he does not contest from Nandigram, it will still be perceived as a fight between him and Mamata. The outcome of the battle will determine the political future of these two giants of Bengal politics.

The two leaders share a history of mass movement in Nandigram, which paved the way for the Trinamool coming to power in 2011. The prolonged and violent Nandigram movement, which started off in March 2007 after 14 villagers were killed in police firing during a demonstration against forcible land acquisition for industry, brought back Mamata from the political wilderness at that time, and established Suvendu as a young powerhouse in Bengal politics. If Mamata was the overall leader of the movement, Suvendu was its face, architect and main organiser.

The BJP has been quick to attack Mamata’s decision by saying that it was based on the understanding that she was facing certain defeat in her old constituency Bhowanipore. In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Trinamool candidate Mala Roy had a lead of just 3,168 votes. Mamata announced 291 candidates out of 294, leaving the three hill seats of Kurseong, Kalimpong and Darjeeling, which will be contested by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha, Trinamool’s ally. Twenty-six sitting MLAs were dropped and a large number of new faces from the world of television, entertainment and sports were included, including football legend Bidesh Bose and cricketer Manoj Tewari. The omissions, however, did not go down well for many, and violent protests broke out in several parts of the State. Controversial MLA Arabul Islam, destroyed his own party office and set up road blocks in his erstwhile constituency. In another instance, supporters of Rafiqur Rahman, another MLA who was dropped, also set up road blocks in protest.

The Left-Congress-Indian Secular Front, known as the Sanjukta Morcha, also announced candidates for the first two phases (60 seats) of the eight-phase Assembly election. However, the names were not finalized for four constituencies — Egra, Pingla, Nandigram and Daspur. Biman Bose, Left Front Chairman and Polit Bureau member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said, “Nandigram is a heavyweight seat, and so we are yet to decide upon who our candidate will be for the seat.”

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