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Thursday, April 22, 2021

In Nandigram high decibel battle, a faint cheer for CPM

In the most high-profile contest of this election, between Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and confidant-turned-foe Suvendu Adhikari, who is standing on a BJP ticket, Mukherjee is drawing crowds for this reason: her simple image.

Written by Atri Mitra | Nandigram |
Updated: March 29, 2021 7:52:19 am
Minakshi Mukherjee newsMinakshi Mukherjee hopped from one polling booth to another on Thursday in a small car accompanied by just two party workers. (File)

Dressed in a salwar-kameez in CPM colours, her hands folded, she is snaking through the village with around 100 or so workers of the CPM and new ally Indian Secular Front (ISF). There is no music, no DJs, unlike other candidates. Only slogans hailing Minakshi Mukherjee: the CPM’s Nandigram candidate.

In the most high-profile contest of this election, between Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and confidant-turned-foe Suvendu Adhikari, who is standing on a BJP ticket, Mukherjee is drawing crowds for this reason: her simple image. In village after village, they come out to see this 37-year-old taking on the veterans.

At Naynan in Daudpur area, Mukherjee bows before the elderly and hugs women voters, promising to get jobs for youths. “Chheleder kaaj dite hobe, tar jonyo lorchhi (We must get work for the boys, that is why we are fighting).”

Rashid Khan, 78, who is standing in front of a mosque when Mukherjee approaches him, holds her hands and starts crying. “You have given us new energy. This time we will vote, and for you. Don’t worry, just fight.”

The high-pitch Nandigram battle has become polarised, with the BJP banking on Hindu-dominated Nandigram II and the TMC hoping that Muslims who are the majority in Nandigram I won’t desert Mamata. The ISF is a new factor in the mix.

Calling Mukherjee a “fighter”, Khan says, “In Naynan, almost all families are supporters of the CPM. We never hurt anybody. But, since 2011, we have not been allowed to vote. Trinamool goons take our voter ID cards and tell us your vote has been cast. Last year, I decided to go. I was beaten by Trinamool youths. They did not even consider my age.”

Mukherjee keeps repeating that if she wins, she will “never be called corrupt or a thief”.

But the challenge before her is apparent even from the poll buntings, with Nandigram swamped with BJP and TMC flags.

CPM youth worker Ziaur Rahman says one should not go by this. “In every area of Nandigram, we have supporters. They will not accept that openly because they face threats. The BJP and TMC have a lot of money, that is why their flags are all over. If voters are allowed to vote freely, they will vote for us.”

The CPM is also hoping that its workers who had sought safety with the BJP due to the scare of the Trinamool will return as the party looks stronger, while the ISF would get it minority support.

Both the BJP and TMC talk of Mukherjee getting substantial votes, and cutting into support of the other side. A TMC leader who has been to Nandigram for Mamata’s campaign, says, “The CPM has huge penetration in Nandigram-II. Minakshi will regain that vote and hit the BJP.” A BJP leader says, “Mukherjee is roaming with ISF supporters. No Hindu will vote for her.”

Mukherjee says she wants the voters to not be swayed by these issues. Her call is for “roti roji (food, livelihood)”, she says.

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