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Masterstroke or nervousness? Mamata Banerjee's surprising Nandigram candidature stuns all Mamata Banerjee
Mamata Banerjee in Nandigram on Jan 18, 2021 (Image Credit: India Blooms)

Masterstroke or nervousness? Mamata Banerjee's surprising Nandigram candidature stuns all

Souvik Ghosh/IBNS | @indiablooms | 19 Jan 2021, 12:15 pm

Kolkata/IBNS: Almost catching the Opposition off-guard on Monday afternoon, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee took the reign of her party Trinamool Congress' fight against one of her former trusted soldiers Suvendu Adhikari, who is now a saffron leader, in Nandigram, setting the tone of the 2021 summer West Bengal polls.

During her party's rally in Nandigram, which paid massive dividends to her eventful political career, Banerjee expressed her wish to contest the polls from the constituency, from where Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Adhikari won comfortably as a Trinamool candidate in 2016.

But things have changed since then and now Banerjee and Adhikari are arch-rivals.

"I would request Subrata Bakshi to allow me to contest from Nandigram," Banerjee said in the bastion of the Adhikari family.

Bakshi, who is the Trinamool state president, immediately accepted Banerjee's proposal and announced her candidature.

The BJP, which will probably have to revisit its political calculations, refused to accept Banerjee's announcement as a masterstroke and called it a sign of weakness.

BJP co-incharge of West Bengal, Amit Malviya, was one of the first politicians to put out a tweet saying, "Mamata Banerjee’s decision to shift seat from Bhowanipore to Nandigram, for the first time in 10 years, indicates her political nervousness...

"Will she explain why IPS Satyajit Bandopadhyay, chargesheeted by CBI for firing on protesting farmers in Nandigram, was inducted in TMC?"

Throwing a counter-challenge to her former party boss, Adhikari at a violence-marred south Kolkata rally on Monday evening thundered, "Will defeat the Honourable CM by half-a-lakh votes or quit politics."

Adhikari, who had led the 2007 Nandigram land movement against the setting up of a chemical hub during the Left Front regime, jumped the ship only in Dec, 2020 deserting the Trinamool in the East Midnapore district.

Banerjee's acceptance of the prestige battle would certainly mean Adhikari and the aggressive BJP will have to walk an extra-mile to defeat the feisty 66-year old political maverick.

In this context, political analyst Professor Biswanath Chakraborty sees Banerjee's move as a "masterstroke".

"Now Mamata Banerjee has launched a direct contest with Suvendu Adhikari instead of keeping it in the hands of Abhishek Banerjee and this will enthuse her party leaders and workers. Mamata always likes to fight from the front. She is becoming the Nandigram candidate on the basis of 'offence is the best defence' policy.

"This step would reduce the number of defections in her party. Honestly, this is a masterstroke. Only Mamata Banerjee can take these risks. I want to see this from a positive light," he said.

With her candidature from Nandigram, Banerjee has also been able to successfully nip Adhikari's accusation of "centralisation of power" in the bud.

Banerjee's announcement came in the backdrop of Adhikari's repeated attacks on the CM and the Trinamool top brass for allegedly running the state from south Kolkata, an urban locality.

"A handful of people from south Kolkata are dictating people of the villages," Adhikari had said in several rallies.

"Yes it is true. This narrative was developing in West Bengal politics. Mamata Banerjee has been able to kill a number of birds in one stone. Moreover, she has been able to send a message to the farmers of old Nandigram that she still remembers them," Chakraborty said.

Despite hailing Banerjee for her bold decision, it can't be missed that she is not in a comfortable position in her current constituency Bhawanipore, located in south Kolkata.

Banerjee, who became the Bhawanipore MLA through a by-election in 2011, was re-elected to the seat by around 25,000 votes five years later. 

But what sounds worrying for the CM is that the Trinamool was found trailing in the Bhawanipore assembly segment during the Lok Sabha election to the Dakshin Kolkata seat in 2019.

Accepting Bhawanipore constituency as a hurdle for Banerjee, Chakraborty added, "At the same time, it should also be mentioned that she in her Bhawanipore constituency, which has a sizable number of non-Bengali voters, is trailing by a considerable number of votes as per the results of the Lok Sabha elections.

"Nandigram constituency is far better than Bhawanipore. Suvendu has worked a lot in Nandigram, which has a handsome number of Muslim voters. So definitely Mamata Banerjee is in an advantageous position if her battle turns out to be against Suvendu Adhikari."

However, Banerjee has not ruled out fighting her election also from Bhawanipore for a second seat.

"I might also fight from Bhawanipore. But it is sure I will be fighting from Nandigram," the Trinamool Congress supremo said.  

Masterstroke or not, Nandigram, which turned out to be a significant place for the Trinamool 14 years ago, has once again been brought to the central stage even in the contemporary state politics, which is bereft of Communism but an aggressive saffronisation.