Washing Powder BJP, Says Mamata Banerjee, Declares Will Contest Nandigram
In a show of strength, Mamata Banerjee held a rally in Nandigram today.
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today announced that she will contest the Bengal election from Nandigram, the epicenter of a farmers' movement that propelled her to power in the state 10 years ago. The announcement is significant as Nandigram is the constituency of her former right hand man Suvendu Adhikari, who crossed over to the BJP last month.
"I will contest from Nandigram. Nandigram is my lucky place," Mamata Banerjee said, addressing a public meeting in the town for the first time in five years.
In the last election, she had contested from Bhabanipur in Kolkata.
"Bhabanipur, please don't feel bad. I will give you a good candidate," the 66-year-old leader said.
Later in her speech, she indicated that she may contest from two constituencies and said, "Nandigram is my big sister, Bhabanipur is my younger sister...I will fight from both if possible. In case I am unable to contest from Bhabanipore, someone else would contest."
Mamata Banerjee's campaign to protect farmers' land from a proposed economic zone project in Nandiram powered her campaign for the 2011 assembly election, which she won by a landslide, defeating the ruling Left.
In 2007, 14 were killed in clashes in Nandigram between protesting farmers and the police. In the subsequent election, Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress crafted the "Ma, Maati, Manush" campaign around that incident.
The Chief Minister's return to Nandigram is a direct challenge to Suvendu Adhikari, who has led an exodus of Trinamool leaders to the BJP over the past few weeks. Over 40 Trinamool Congress leaders joined Mr Adhikari as he defected to the BJP in a mega rally in December in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Mr Adhikari emerged as one of the Trinamool's top leaders because of his clout in Nandigram, which made the party almost unbeatable in rural Bengal. In 2007, Mr Adhikari, then a close aide of Mamata Banerjee, snatched Nandigram from the Left, catapulting the Trinamool to power.
In the approaching state election, the Nandigram battle will be a defining one for Ms Banerjee as she takes on her once-trusted lieutenant, now one of the BJP's prime movers in Bengal.
Ms Banerjee hit out at the BJP, accusing it of luring her party men by promising to turn their black money into white. "Washing Powder Bhajapa (BJP): TMC me kaala, BJP ka washing machine me shaada (black in Trinamool, white in BJP washing machine)," she remarked.
The BJP saw Ms Banerjee's decision as a sign of nervousness and also targeted her for taking into the party a former police officer accused in the Nandigram firing.
"Mamata Banerjee's decision to shift seat from Bhowanipore to Nandigram, for the first time in 10 years, indicates her political nervousness... Will she explain why IPS Satyajit Bandopadhyay, chargesheeted by CBI for firing on protesting farmers in Nandigram, was inducted in TMC?" tweeted Amit Malviya, the BJP's social media head and in-charge of Bengal.