BJP candidate Suvendu Adhikari today won the battle royal in Nandigram, defeating Trinamul Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee by a razor-thin margin of 1736 votes. Earlier, reports had suggested that Miss Banerjee was winning the seat by a slim margin of 1200 votes against Mr Adhikari, her former lieutenant.
The Trinamul Congress has demanded recounting in the constituency, alleging a number of illegalities in the vote counting process. The TMC has written to the CEO requesting an immediate recounting of votes, party sources said, alleging “tampering and mismanagement of numbers from the EVM.
There were reports that following the declaration of the Nandigram results, after a long day that saw the two candidates swapping leads multiple times, angry TMC supporters pelted stones on Mr Adhikari’s convoy in Haldia.
The Bengal chief minister trailed Suvendu Adhikari in the early rounds of counting, which dimmed her party’s euphoria over a spectacular election victory in Bengal. And finally, Suvendu managed a 1,736-vote lead to clinch a victory.
Since the first round of counting, Mr Adhikari started to lead and till the tenth round of counting of votes, Miss Banerjee was trailing behind her one-time aide by a margin of 10,379 votes. But in the later rounds of counting, Miss Banerjee steadily picked up votes. Just before the the last round of counting, Mr Adhikari was ahead of Miss Banerjee by just six votes.
In a press conference, the West Bengal chief minister said, “Don’t worry about Nandigram, I struggled for Nandigram because I fought a movement. It’s ok. Let the Nandigram people give whatever verdict they want, I accept that. I don’t mind. We won more than 221 seats and BJP has lost the election. We are grateful to the people for this landslide victory. I have to start working for Covid-19 immediately. The swearing-in will be a low-key event because of the prevailing Covid-19 situation, Miss Banerjee said.
Nandigram was the epicentre of the anti-land acquisition movement that catapulted Miss Banerjee to power for the first time in 2011. In 2011, Suvendu Adhikari was by Miss Banerjee’s side as she campaigned for farmers’ land rights. He became an MLA in the constituency and for years, the Adhikari family had a firm grip over Nandigram. But in this election, he was weaponized by the BJP against the chief minister, who was pitched as an “outsider” in Nandigram.
Miss Banerjee opted for Nandigram after Suvendu Adhikari quit the Trinamul and joined the BJP to take the battle to her one-time lieutenant. Both Miss Banerjee and Mr Adhikari conducted a very aggressive campaign. Mr Adhikari, after joining the BJP, had vowed to defeat Miss Banerjee from Nandigram by more than 50,000 votes, placing his career in politics on the line.
“Write this down and mention the date and time. I will leave politics if I cannot defeat her (Mamata Banerjee) by a half lakh (50,000) votes,” Adhikari had said during a rally in south Kolkata. He had also asked the TMC supremo to prepare a letterhead with ‘former chief minister’ written on it.
Miss Banerjee, on the other hand, has called Suvendu Adhikari a ‘traitor’ and said that she was wrong to have ‘blindly’ supported the Adhikari family once. Dubbing the turncoat leader as ‘Mir Jafar’, Mamata Banerjee said that she won’t be leaving even one inch of soil to Adhikari or any of the opposition leaders.
Meanwhile, BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya credited Mamata Banerjee for the TMC’s astounding performance in Bengal elections, and said his party would introspect the poll results.