Mamata Banerjee appears to have bamboozled the political class generally on Monday with her announcement that she would be contesting the Assembly election from Nandigram in East Midnapore ~ a constituency that, in addition to Singur, had catapulted her to the Chief Minister’s chair in 2011.
It is quite a different story that the place has for the past decade languished as a deserted village, without even a tin shed being erected, somewhat reminiscent of Oliver Goldsmith’s depiction of the village of Auburn in the poem, The Deserted Village. Whereas in 2011 it was an agrarian crisis, it is pretty obvious that the compulsion this time is to confront the Trinamul renegade and former minister, Suvendu Adhikari, who has switched over to the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Significant no less is the fact that she has announced her signal of intent about her preference for Nandigram in Nandigram. “I cannot forget Nandigram’s martyrs,” she said while alluding to the police firing that killed 14 people in 2007. It would be useful to recall that even Jyoti Basu had condemned the firing, with CPI-M cadres masquerading as police personnel and pulling the trigger in violation of the UN convention.
In 2021, Miss Banerjee will be contesting from her home turf of Bhowanipore as well, thus underlining the difference between town and country in the electoral construct. In the context of the Chief Minister’s announcement, it is hard not wonder whether she is intent on tackling two issues.
The Adhikari family had been Trinamul’s local custodians since the party’s foundation in 1998. Furthermore, after the recent spate of defections, the party will be in a position to buttress its connection with the voters of Nandigram and East Midnapore generally. Miss Banerjee utilised the opportunity afforded by Nandigram to launch a sniper attack on the renegades.
Without naming Adhikari, she asserted that those who left Trinamul and joined the BJP have made huge money. “They need a shelter to protect that wealth; the BJP is giving them that shelter. The BJP is a washing machine for legalising illgotten money”. The subtext is that the BJP is corrupt.
This is bound to raise the supplementary query ~ How could a former Trinamul minister make “huge money” while in office? Miss Banerjee has linked her party’s movement against the CPI-M in 2007 to the current farmers’ agitation in northern India.
“I will renew my movement from Nandigram if the Centre does not withdraw the three anti-farmer laws.” While Bengal awaits the outcome in Nandigram and Bhowanipore, there is little doubt that twin victories will enormously beef up Miss Banerjee’s position.
With the crucial difference that in Nandigram, she will be pitted against a Trinamul Congress renegade, True to character, Miss Banerjee has countered the Adhikari bouncer with a fierce hook; we will soon know if the ball sails over the rope or leaves her caught out.