Updated: May 3, 2021 11:01:39 am
In the battleground constituency of Nandigram, scenes at a puja reflected the nail-biting contest that TMC chief Mamata Banerjee was in against former aide-turned-rival Suvendu Adhikari of the BJP, in the latter’s family bastion.
On Sunday morning, preparations were complete for a “yaggo” (puja) for Adhikari at the Chandimata temple in Parulbari area, but as the trends began hinting at a victory for the TMC, the numbers dwindled due to reluctant participants. However, as Adhikari inched closer in the contest, priest Ashim Chakraborty dug his heels in. “We should start the puja because there is a stipulated time to hold the yaggo.” The locals in front of the temple agreed.
In the first four rounds of counting in the morning, Adhikari took a lead of nearly 8,000 votes after Banerjee gradually narrowed the margin. In the afternoon, after 16 rounds, Adhikari was leading by only six votes.
Krishnakanta Karak (39), a resident of Maheshpur who stood behind the temple, said, “We were sure about Suvendu Adhikari’s victory. But we never expected such results.”
While roads seemed deserted in BJP-dominated areas in the constituency, the mood was different in TMC-dominated Sonachura, Daudpur, Samsabad and Nandigram bus stand, with hundreds of Mamata Banerjee supporters playing with green “abir” (colours).
The tables seemed turned in favour of the TMC, and news agency ANI tweeted that Banerjee had won. But just after the tweet, the Election Commission announced that the counting was not final, later declaring that Banerjee had lost to Adhikari with a margin of 1,736 votes. The TMC then approached the EC for a recount, alleging EVM tampering and fraud, and it was only in the night that the EC officials confirmed that Adhikari had won by 1,956 votes.
DEO Smita Pandey confirmed the same to The Indian Express.
However, TMC leaders maintained it was their chief’s decision to contest the poll against Adhikari from Nandigram which enabled the party to fight back.
More than 40 TMC leaders had joined Adhikari as he defected to the BJP in a mega rally in December last year. And it was his clout in Nandigram which had earlier made the TMC almost unbeatable in rural Bengal.
In such a situation, Banerjee’s decision to fight from Nandigram not only boosted the morale of her party’s grassroot workers but also posed a big challenge to the BJP.
As counting of votes progressed, it became clear that with Banerjee’s decision, the TMC was able to win over almost all the seats in the Adhikari family’s stronghold in East and West Midnapore and Jhargram.
But Adhikari won from his home turf. “My sincere thanks to the great People of Nandigram for their love, trust, blessings, and support, and for choosing me… It is my never-ending commitment to be of service to them and working for their welfare…” he tweeted.
Banerjee, who led the TMC campaign in a wheelchair following an injury, may now contest a bypoll in Khardaha where TMC candidate Kajal Sinha died due to Covid.
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