Risky resolve

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Risky resolve

Monday, 08 March 2021 | Pioneer

Risky resolve

Will Mamata’s decision to contest Nandigram backfire or bring her back to power?

Electoral politics is a tricky game and, for political parties that are practically a one-person show, it’s especially important for the supremo to choose to contest from such an Assembly seat that it sends a strong message among the masses that the leader is attached to the grassroots and doesn’t hesitate to take the rivals head on. This has a psychological impact on the voters, not only in the particular constituency the leader contests from but across the State, which helps consolidate the vote bank in that party’s favour. TMC chief Mamata Banerjee seems to have hit the right note by deciding to contest from Nandigram, the seat held by her one-time confidant Suvendu Adhikari who dumped the TMC to join the BJP in December. By doing so, Mamata — who is beleaguered by a spate of defections from the TMC in the five months preceding the Assembly elections — has taken the fight to the BJP’s camp and tried to project a pro-poor image by returning to her political roots. The Trinamool’s sweep of Nandigram in 2007 is one of the key factors that paved the way for her political resurrection and catapulted her to power in 2011. Adhikari, who wields considerable influence in the constituency, had thrown down the gauntlet to Mamata to contest from the seat. Now, Mamata seems to have accepted the challenge and asserted that “this is a smiley election”. It might appear to be a case of simple political enmity but there is no denying that it has deeper political connotations.

With almost 40 per cent Muslim voters and a sizeable number of Dalits in the constituency, Mamata might be confident of her win and Adhikari, after all, may not have very bright prospects of defeating her but the contest here will certainly be demanding on her in terms of time, energy and attention to other seats; in other words, a victory in Nandigram might cost Mamata a few other constituencies. At a time when Didi is already licking the wounds inflicted by scores of defectors, her special focus on Nandigram might cost the Trinamool dear in West Bengal. Undoubtedly, Adhikari — who was the architect of the ouster of the Left from Nandigram in 2007 — is the BJP’s biggest acquisition but the saffron party’s real objective is to oust the TMC from power and not just win the battle of prestige. So, from this viewpoint, Mamata’s decision to contest from the constituency might actually serve the BJP which has already launched its “Mission 200+”. Moreover, Mamata’s dropping out of Kolkata’s Bhowanipore seat, which she represented for two terms and where her party trailed in the 2019 general elections by a few thousand votes, has given the saffron party ammunition to mock her by saying that it shows her nervousness. Whether it is Didi’s apprehensiveness or a bold, calculated move, or the BJP’s ploy to make Mamata channelise all her energy and focus on to Nandigram, thus making her a spent force elsewhere, is the moot question which only voters will answer. For now, with the recent turn of events, West Bengal has become a hot spot of politics with the parties doing all that they can to win the elections.

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