Spotlight on Nandigram again as Mamata to fight Bengal polls from assembly seat

Updated on Mar 05, 2021 09:22 PM IST
  • TMC releases first list of 291 candidates for West Bengal assembly polls, CM Mamata Banerjee to contest from Nandigram
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addresses a public meeting, at Sahaganj in Hooghly district. (PTI)
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addresses a public meeting, at Sahaganj in Hooghly district. (PTI)
By | Edited by Shankhyaneel Sarkar, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

West Bengal assembly elections, which is already set to be one of the closely-watched polls this year, got a fillip as Trinamool Congress chief (TMC) and chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced on Friday she will be fighting from the Nandigram constituency. “When I say something, I keep my word,” Banerjee said and added that she will go to Nandigram on March 9 and file her nomination on March 10.

Nandigram is important for Trinamool Congress’ political past as well as future. Nearly 14 years ago, a movement sprung out from Nandigram following the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or (CPI(M) government’s decision to build a special economic zone (SEZ) in the area. The move angered the villagers who needed those lands for agriculture.

WATCH | CM Mamata Banerjee to contest from Nandigram; says this is a ‘smiley election’

In 2007, the district saw several incidents of violence but on March 27 the killing of 14 unarmed villagers in Nandigram in police firing led to harsh criticism of the Left Front government. Banerjee stepped in along with her party and started the Nandigram movement, which eventually led to the fall of the Left Front government. The Nandigram movement became pivotal for the Trinamool Congress as it fought the elections on the plank of giving people back their rights and most importantly their lands. Along with Banerjee, Suvendu Adhikari also led the anti-land acquisition movement in Nandigram and worked to expand the party’s base in West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura, which were the earlier strongholds of the CPI(M).

Trinamool Congress, banking on what it called its pro-people politics, won the panchayat elections in 2008, Lok Sabha elections in 2009, municipal polls in 2010 and registered a massive victory ousting the Left Front government from power in the 2011 elections.

In 2021, the picture has changed drastically as Adhikari is longer with the Trinamool Congress. At a rally in Midnapore in December 2020, the Union minister for home affairs Amit Shah stood alongside a group of Trinamool Congress lawmakers, who defected from the party saying it had shifted away from helping the people. The leaders were led by Adhikari, who claimed that the people of West Bengal will oust the TMC from power, sounding very different from a decade ago when he along with Banerjee celebrated the fall of the Left Front government.

Banerjee’s decision to fight from Nandigram can be seen as a move to win back her electorates. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has not yet announced its list of candidates for the upcoming polls but Nandigram has once again become a critical point. As the BJP promises to usher ‘ashol poriborton’ (the real change) and a new era of development for West Bengal, the TMC chief has gone back to the drawing board to ensure that her party remains in power.

TMC workers are already looking for houses in Nandigram where the West Bengal chief minister will set up her base in the following weeks as the state heads to elections on March 27. Sheikh Sufiyan, a TMC leader from East Midnapore, told HT that party workers have zeroed in on three to four houses where the chief minister will decide the strategy for the polls.

Senior leaders of the BJP have said they are confident about a clean sweep from the Nandigram seat in the upcoming assembly election in West Bengal and that its candidate will defeat Banerjee by 50,000 votes.

Fear of violence has already cast a shadow on the upcoming polls in the state. Several clashes between the workers of the BJP and the ruling party have led to the loss of lives and injuries over the past couple of years. West Bengal assembly elections will be held across eight phases starting March 27. Elections will be held on April 1, April 6, April 10, April 17, April 22, April 26 and April 29 for the rest of the phases. The votes will be counted on May 2.

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