Updated: January 25, 2021 7:54:21 am
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s announcement to contest the Assembly election from Nandigram will help the TMC campaign by bringing back her streetfighter image and by preventing the BJP from claiming a part in the Nandigram movement, according to party leaders.
TMC leaders said the decision has enthused the cadre, specifically in Medinipur where there was some demoralisation after former state minister Suvendu Adhikari left for the BJP. The leaders said that after a decade in power, “it was natural” for people to begin to see Banerjee as a CM and not a fighter for “people’s rights” she once was, but the symbolism of contesting from Nandigram would be a reminder of who she is.
Sukhendu Sekhar Ray, Chief Whip of TMC in Rajya Sabha said, “Nandigram is a major sensitive political incident of Mamata Banerjee’s life. She was one of the only people in independent India who went on a hunger strike for 26 days. The Centre and the Governor appealed to her, but she was reluctant because of the way the farmers were attacked. She was the lone voice for the farmers.”
“Ultimately, her stance was vindicated when the people rallied around her and even courts gave judgements in favour of her stance that no land of any individual can be taken by the government without consent. And the central government led by Manmohan Singh had to amend the archaic Land Acquisition Act.”
Referring to Adhikari, Ray said “some people” were trying to claim credit for Nandigram movement. “If by defecting to BJP, someone claims that it was he who gave birth to the movement, it is not only far from truth, but also means that BJP is trying to exploit the situation as if it was also part of the Nandigram movement, which is laughable. BJP was nowhere in the people’s movement,” Ray said.
TMC strategists admitted Adhikari’s departure was seen as a problem in areas in and around Nandigram and Medinipur. “It is foolish to say his leaving does not mean anything. It is a political move that needed to be countered. Even if you look at local media surveys, after he left, they said at least twenty seats in and around Medinipur were going to BJP. That has changed now. It is not Suvendu versus nobody. It is Suvendu versus Mamata in Nandigram,” a senior TMC leader said.
“Now people are waiting to see what he will do. Will he fight from Nandigram, or will he change the seat? The questions are now with Adhikari and people are watching,” the leader added.
Another leader said the cadre in these districts are now waiting and watching as opposed to jumping the ship. “Many workers from any party go where they think the party they are affiliated to will win. Now they know TMC is going nowhere,” another strategist said.
While Adhikari has promised to quit politics if Banerjee is not defeated in Nandigram, the BJP leadership has said results of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections show TMC has lost ground in Banerjee’s home seat Bhawanipur and that her decision to contest from Nandigram is to save face.
Ray said Banerjee has “never said” she would not fight from Bhawanipur as well. Referring to Narendra Modi contesting from Vadodara and Varanasi, and Rahul Gandhi from Amethi and Wayanad, he said this was not new to Bengal either. “Ajoy Mukherjee contested in 1967 from Tamluk and Arambagh. In Arambagh, Prafulla Chandra Sen, his predecessor as CM was the Congress candidate and he lost. Whether it is wrong or right will be decided by people.”
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