Mamata Banerjee was locked in a white-knuckled fight in Bengal’s Nandigram against the BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari, her former right hand man.
The Bengal Chief Minister trailed Suvendu Adhikari in the early rounds of counting, which dimmed her party’s euphoria at a spectacular election victory in Bengal. She scraped past him and managed a 1,200-vote lead in the afternoon. There is still confusion over the final results though reports suggest she has won.
Nandigram is the town that catapulted Mamata Banerjee to power for the first time in 2011 and winning here serves as a big message to aides – mainly Mr Adhikari — who ditched her this time to cross over to the BJP.
In 2011, Suvendu Adhikari was by Ms 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.
Suvendu Adhikari’s switch to the BJP in December led to mass defections that left Ms Banerjee without many of her loyal aides.
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee wins Nandigram constituency by 1200 votes, defeating BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari.
(File photo) pic.twitter.com/kMzRKcmqJH
— ANI (@ANI) May 2, 2021
Stung by Mr Adhikari’s betrayal, Ms Banerjee decided to take the fight straight to his stronghold to prove a point. She gave up her constituency Bhowanipore in Kolkata. In her speeches, she said she chose to contest Nandigram “to salute the Nandigram movement” and promised she would never abandon the constituency.
It is while campaigning in Nandigram that the 66-year-old Chief Minister suffered a leg injury; she accused the BJP of a role in the incident, in which her leg was allegedly crushed by her car door by the press of a large crowd. For the rest of the campaign, she was in a wheelchair, taking on the collective might of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and multiple BJP leaders from outside.
Suvendu Adhikari has vowed to quit politics if he didn’t defeat Mamata Banerjee by more than 50,000 votes. Taunting his former mentor, Mr Adhikari has also asked her to be ready with a letterhead that says: “Former chief minister”.