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Stage set for high-voltage contest between Mamata Banerjee and her former lieutenant Suvendu Adhikari

Since Adhikari switched to the BJP on December 19, all eyes were on Nandigram and especially on who will take on the former state minister in his home turf.

Written by Santanu Chowdhury | Kolkata |
Updated: March 13, 2021 6:15:12 pm
West Bengal Assembly Elections 2021West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and former state minister-turned-BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari. (File Photo)

Setting the stage for a high-voltage contest, the BJP has pitted former state minister-turned-BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari against West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee from Nandigram constituency.

While announcing the candidate list for the first two phases, BJP national general secretary Arun Singh on Saturday announced Adhikari’s name from Nandigram, ending weeks of speculation.

Yesterday, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee announced that she will only contest from Nandigram seat and left her Bhabanipur seat to her party leader Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay.

“I am Nandigram’s Bhumiputra. She is an outsider here. I will defeat her and send her back to Kolkata. The people of Nandigram will support its bhumiputra and not the outsider,” said Adhikari after his candidature was announced.

Since Adhikari switched to the BJP on December 19, all eyes were on Nandigram and especially on who will take on the former state minister in his home turf. Surprising everyone, Mamata Banerjee, while addressing a public meeting in Nandigram on January 18, expressed her desire to contest from there – a place which catapulted her to power in 2011. Banerjee had also said that she will simultaneously contest from her Bhabanipur seat in Kolkata or field a good candidate from there.

However, the BJP relentlessly put a lot of pressure on Banerjee by saying that she has to contest from one seat and not from two to ensure her victory.

Suvendu Adhikari’s father and TMC MP Sisir Adhikari said, “Suvendu will win Nandigram by a huge margin. Trinamool has broken the hearts of people of Midnapore. Mamata Banerjee should not have been adamant about fighting from Nandigram.”

Won by the Trinamool in a 2009 bypoll, Nandigram Assembly seat has since been with the party — Adhikari won in 2016 by 81,230 votes. BJP had bagged only 10,713 votes. In 2019, the Tamluk Lok Sabha seat, under which Nandigram falls, was won by Adhikari’s brother Dibyendu. However, the BJP had come second in Nandigram segment, getting over 60,000 votes.

“Suvendu is a traiter who backstabbed the party. People do not forgive traitors. Mamata Banerjee knows Nandigram by the back of her hand. She will win the seat by a huge margin. Suvendu too is not from Nandigram. He is from Contai which 70 to 80 km away from Nandigram,” said TMC MP Sougata Roy.

Who is Suvendu Adhikari?

Formerly a Congress family, the Adhikaris of East Midnapore joined the Trinamool Congress after Mamata formed the party in 1998. Suvendu is the son of three-term MP Sisir Adhikari, who was Union Minister of State for Rural Development in UPA-2. Suvendu himself has been an MP in UPA-1 and UPA-2. In 2007, Suvendu, then an MLA, spearheaded the anti-land-acquisition movement in Nandigram that eventually helped the Trinamool Congress dislodge the 34-year Left Front government in 2011.

In 2009, Suvendu Adhikari defeated CPM strongman Lakshman Seth in Tamluk by 1.73 lakh votes. In 2014, he was re-elected to Lok Sabha. In 2016, he won the Nandigram Assembly seat and was made state Transport Minister. In September 2014, the CBI interrogated Adhikari in the Saradha chit fund scam. He was also seen in purported footage of the Narada scam.

Since the exit of Mukul Roy in 2017, Suvendu has been the Trinamool’s go-to man during elections. He plays a key role for the party in 16 Assembly seats in East Midnapore, and also in seats in West Midnapore, Bankura, Purulia, Murshidabad and Malda districts.

Following the BJP’s victories in 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal in 2019, Adhikari was made the Trinamool Congress in-charge of Assembly bypolls a few months later. He helped secure victory in all three bypolls including in Kharagpur Sadar, West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh’s constituency.

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