Updated: March 7, 2021 11:07:31 am
Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first rally in West Bengal after declaration of the poll schedule, at the historic Brigade Parade Ground, the BJP Saturday threw down another gauntlet in the high-voltage battle for the state. It announced that it will be fielding Suvendu Adhikari, the Trinamool leader who recently crossed over to the BJP, from Nandigram against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Mamata had catapulted to power in 2011 on the strength of the anti-land acquisition protest in Nandigram, with her then protege Adhikari the face of the agitation on the ground — making Nandigram the most prestigious contest in the Assembly elections starting March 27. Adhikari had won from the Nandigram seat last time, while Mamata announced earlier that she would be contesting from here instead of her traditional seat of Bhabanipur in Kolkata.
The BJP declared candidate for 56 of the 60 seats that will go to polls in first two of the eight phases in West Bengal. The other prominent names to get tickets Saturday were former Indian cricketer Ashok Dinda and ex-IPS officer Bharati Ghosh. The BJP has left one seat of the 60 (Baghmundi in Purulia district) for ally All Jharkhand Students’ Union.
Soon after he was given the BJP ticket, Adhikari announced, “I am Nandigram’s Bhumi Putra. She (Mamata) is an outsider here. I will defeat her and send her back to Kolkata.”
In Debra in West Midnapore, the BJP’s Bharati Ghosh will face another former IPS officer, Humayun Kabir, standing on the Trinamool ticket. While this is Kabir’s poll debut, Ghosh, a BJP vice-president, also contested the Lok Sabha elections. Kabir recently resigned as the Commissioner of Chandannagar Police Commissionerate, months before his retirement. Ghosh, the former police chief of the then Naxal-dominated Junglemahal area, was close to Mamata at one time but had a falling out over a CID?investigation into extortion charges.
Former pacer Dinda has got a ticket from Moyna in East Midnapore, while the BJP has fielded Tapashi Mondal, a former CPM MLA, from Haldia and former IIM-C professor Ambuj Mohanti from Patashpur in the same district.
The BJP is calling Modi’s Sunday rally the culmination of its Parivartan Yatras across the state, on since February. West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said, “Tomorrow Modiji will address a massive rally at Brigade. Workers from across the state are coming to attend it. The Prime Minister will set the tone for the election campaign.”
Banners, posters and cutouts of the PM have been put up across the city to welcome him, with the party organising flash mobs over the past few weeks in the run-up to the rally. Several top BJP leaders are expected to be present at the meeting.
Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar and actor Mithun Chakraborty might be also present on the dais. Amidst intense speculation about Chakraborty joining the BJP, national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya Saturday said nothing had been discussed regarding the same.
Once considered close to the CPM, Chakraborty was given a ticket to the Rajya Sabha by the Trinamool, though he resigned in a couple of years later saying he wanted to quit politics. Recently, Chakraborty had met RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat at his Mumbai home, further fuelling speculation of the actor foraying into politics.
Modi is scheduled to hold more than 20 rallies in the state over the course of the election, with the last phase on April 29.
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