Some are calling Mamata Banerjee’s Nandigram gamble a political masterstroke to ride back to power, some are naming it a desperate attempt in face of looming defeat in West Bengal. 10 years ago, following a farmer agitation at epicentre Nandigram (and Singur), she overthrew 30 years of left rule in the state, now the Trinamool Congress chief has returned to it to retain her dominion.
Addressing a rally in Bengal’s Nandigram, Mamata Banerjee declared that she will contest the assembly election from there. The announcement was gradual as she first appeared to be promising the people to give a good TMC candidate who will work hard for them, but as the crowd erupted in applause and cheering, after a brief pause she disclosed her name to the audience.
So far the TMC chief has been fighting assembly polls from the Bhowanipore constituency which is a neighbourhood of South Kolkata. Though, she clarified that she will continue to fight from her home turf as well. Mamata Banerjee, however, appeared a little two-minded with first pronouncing that the people of Bhowanipore should not be disheartened as she will find a promising candidate to represent the assembly seat, but later she said she will contest from both Bhowanipore and Nandigram.
Why did Mamata decide to contest from Nandigram?
Was it for her former right-hand man and Nandigram lieutenant Suvendu Adhikari who switched over to the BJP?
The analysts who term Didi’s Nandigram dare a masterstroke are of the view that she has neutralised the BJP’s principal weapon against her in Bengal by taking Suvendu Adhikari head-on in Nandigram. Even though his candidature from the assembly constituency has not been announced yet.
Now Mamata Banerjee has virtually turned the table on the BJP putting out her name first and the saffron party will be forced to field Suvendu Adhikari from Nandigram, even if the party may have some other plan for him.
Coming forward though, the BJP leader himself intensified the war cry – coincidentally in a rally in South Kolkata – trumpeting that he will defeat Mamata by half lakh votes or will quit politics.
The West Bengal Chief Minister has undoubtedly set the stage for a pitched battle in Nandigram, which she believes will go in her favour cutting Suvendu Adhikari down to size and blunting BJP’s offensive in the state.
The constituency held by Suvendu Adhikari has yet again gained political significance becoming the epicentre of Bengal elections.
In Nandigram, 14 people were killed in 2007 when farmers protesting against land acquisition for an economic zone project clashed with the police. Mamata Banerjee along with the TMC cadre launched the ‘Ma, Maati, Manush’ campaign around the incident and won the subsequent 2011 assembly elections by a landslide unseating the left front government.
Due to his influence in Nandigram and exceptional role in the 2011 victory, Suvendu Adhikari emerged as one of the top leaders in the party. When the BJP poached Adhikari, it was indeed a big jolt to the Trinamool Congress. His exit led to an exodus of TMC leaders to the BJP, over 40 of them joined the party in December 2020 during Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s mega rally.
Mamata Banerjee and senior TMC leaders tried to put up a brave face when the BJP made a dent in the party at the crucial juncture ahead of assembly polls in the state. Then the Chief Minister downplayed Suvendu Adhikari’s departure calling it inconsequential, while her party leaders went on to brand him a ‘traitor’.
Rebel Adhikari, however, has been unrelenting in his verbal attacks on Didi and her party. In the election rallies, he has been consistently taking the credit for the Nandigram agitation, projecting himself as a real force behind the rise of the TMC. His unending goading perhaps led Mamata Banerjee to finally throw down the gauntlet for a direct face-off in Nandigram.
While it could be a well-thought-out move by the West Bengal Chief Minister, the BJP is calling it Mamata’s sign of political nervousness.
After the announcement of Didi’s Nandigram dare, Amit Malviya, the BJP’s social media head and in-charge of Bengal, mounted a scathing attack on her. In a tweet, he questioned ‘why did Mamata Banerjee induct IPS Satyajit Bandopadhyay in TMC who has been chargesheeted by the CBI for opening fire on protesting farmers in Nandigram.
Amid this cacophony and perpetual war of words between the TMC and BJP, while the TMC chief’s surprise move has made the Bengal elections interesting, it has also put her political career at risk. Because they say only ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’ and the Trinamool Congress so far did not betray any sign of despair. All said and done the TMC cadre must be hoping that Nandigram gambit proves to be Queen’s Gambit for Mamata Banerjee, not political hara-kiri for her party.