Mamata Banerjee will address two rallies in the Maoist-dominated zone of West Midnapore on May 6. One of the rallies will be in support of the Trinamool Congress candidate from the Jhargram seat, where Chhatradhar Mahato is contesting as an Independent. The second is in Nayagram.
Not long ago, Banerjee had shared the dais with the (now) jailed People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities leader. The photograph of the two was widely circulated in 2009 but the Trinamool chief has since distanced herself from the PCAPA movement. Two years on, they are political rivals but with the same target — to unseat CPI(M) MLA Amar Basu.
“Mamata Banerjee is slated to address a public gathering at Jhargram in support of our candidate, Sukumar Hansda, at 1pm on May 6. We are confident of winning the seat,” said Pranab Basu, West Midnapore district president of Trinamool Congress.
Chhatradhar Mahato’s supporters have organised a rally in favour of their jailed leader at Jhargram that very day. Manoj Mahato, former PCAPA secretary who was recently released on bail and is overseeing Chhatradhar’ Mahatos campaign, will be the main speaker.
“We are getting huge support from the locals. Everybody knows about his sacrifices for the development of the area and rights of the locals. Chhatradhar Mahato will easily win,” said Manoj Mahato, who had played a key role in ensuring an impressive turnout at Banerjee’s rally in Lalgarh on August 9, 2010.
Jhargram was seen as the most positive seat for Trinamool in West Midnapore until Chhatradhar Mahato filed his nomination. “Mamata is welcome to address the rally at Jhargram. But here Chhatradhar is closer to people’s heart than her,” Manoj Mahato said.
Banerjee’s decision to address a rally at Jhargram, where the vote split between Chhatradhar Mahato and her candidate may even help the CPI(M) win the seat, may be an attempt to remove the pro-Maoist tag slapped on her by the CPI(M).
“She won’t be able to fool people this way. Everybody here knows that Trinamool workers and Maoists work hand-in-glove,” said Basu. On May 3, the chief minister would address a rally at Jhargram. Banerjee’s candidate for Salboni, Srikanta Mahato, too, is accused of being a Maoist collaborator and has spent 13 days in jail.
“Had Mamata decided to avoid Jhargram campaign, CPI(M) would have said that she is giving away the seat to Chhatradhar. She can’t afford that now,” said a Trinamool leader.