Nandigram in East Mindapore district, the site of a much-talked-about anti-displacement movement that played a pivotal role behind the fall of the 34-year-old Left Front regime, will see the most high-profile contest in the state Assembly elections scheduled to start later this month, as the BJP on Saturday named Suvendu Adhikary as its Nandigram candidate.
On Friday, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had said she will be contesting only from Nandigram, leaving her own seat, Bhawanipur in south Kolkata, to state power minister Sobhandeb Chatterjee.
"Adhikary himself had told the party's national leadership that he wanted to contest from Nandigram but left the decision on the national leadership," said Rajib Banerjee a former TMC minister who joined the BJP a month after Adhikary.
Adhikary, once one of Mamata's close aides, is the outgoing MLA from Nandigram.
The state is scheduled to undergo an eight-phase election from March 27 to April 29. Polling in Nandigram is scheduled in the second phase, on April 1.
Mamata Banerjee is likely to file her nomination on March 11, according to a senior leader of the TMC. The party is hunting for suitable temporary accommodation for the chief minister in Nandigram.
Mamata Banerjee, however, had already urged the electorate of Nandigram that she would not be able to spend much time there during the campaign.
"You (people) take care of the elections. I will take care of Nandigram after the elections," she had said the day she first expressed her plan to contest from Nandigram.
It was after Adhikary joined the BJP in November and started carrying out a high-pitched attack against Mamata Banerjee's government, and especially her nephew Abhishek Banerjee, that Mamata announced that she herself will contest from Nandigram.
The district of East Midnapore has been a bastion of the TMC, thanks largely to the Adhikary family. Apart from Suvendu, the family has Suvendu's father, TMC veteran Sisir Adhikary and Suvendu's brother Dibyendu as the two Lok Sabha MPs from the district.
The two are yet to quit TMC formally but are hardly taking part in the party's electoral activities.
"It is to prevent a split in the party in the East Midnapore district following the developments around the Adhikary family that she decided to take the battle head-on. It is largely due to her decision that the TMC camp in East Midnapore remains high on morale and there has been no significant desertion of leaders following Suvendu's exit," said a senior Bengal minister who did not want to be named.
Adhikary has repeatedly vowed to defeat Mamata Banerjee by a margin of 50,000 votes.
On the other hand, the BJP's state unit president Dilip Ghosh has alleged that Mamata Banerjee changed her constituency due to demographic equations -- Bhawanipur has a high percentage of Hindu voters and non-Bengali speaking people.
"She is afraid of the backlash of her party's Bengali versus outsider campaign and that's why she fled from Bhawanipur, hoping to win Nandigram which has about 34% Muslim population," Ghosh said.
Adhikary, too, has alleged that Mamata was depending on "62,000" voters (referring to the Muslim adult population), whereas Adhikary was depending on the whole population of Nandigram.
Mamata Banerjee has her own popularity in Nandigram as she led the anti-displacement movement during 2006-2008 in which Suvendu was one of her generals.
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