With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday announcing TMC turncoat Suvendu Adhikari's candidature from the Nandigram constituency, the stage is all set for the Battle Royale between him and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in the most high-profile seat in the upcoming West Bengal Assembly elections.
Such is the hype around Nandigram -- where the outcome could be the defining moment in West Bengal politics -- that even CPM is yet to finalize its candidate for the hot seat. Addressing a press conference at the CPM headquarters, party chairman Biman Bose on Friday said that they have not finalized their Nandigram candidate, as the constituency is going to witness a 'Clash of the Titans.'
Meanwhile, Suvendu Adhikari on Saturday affirmed that he will defeat Mamata Banerjee by over 50,000 votes. He also thanked the BJP top brass and said that he will make the lotus bloom in the state.
"Nandigram (election) is not a challenge for me. I am going to Nandigram to defeat her (Mamata Banerjee) and send her back to Kolkata," he said. "I thank the national party leadership for the responsibility given to me. I will work to make lotus bloom in Nandigram and across West Bengal. She (Mamata Banerjee) is going to lose this election (in Nandigram) by over 50,000 votes," he added.
When asked if he will be made the Chief Minister if BJP wins, Adhikari said, "Decisions in BJP are not made individually. I am a disciplined and sincere soldier of the party. We all are working as a team. I don't want to answer hypothetical questions."
TMC MP Sougata Roy, however, said Adhikari will be defeated as people of West Bengal dislike "traitors". "People of West Bengal dislike traitors. It is good that Suvendu is contesting the Nandigram seat. Once he loses, he will get to know his stature and that he was overrated," he said.
Both Banerjee and Adhikari were prominent figures of the anti-land acquisition movement in Nandigram in 2007 that catapulted the firebrand TMC supremo to power in West Bengal in 2011 after ending the 34-year-long rule of the Left Front.
The little-known rural area changed the political landscape of West Bengal after witnessing one of the bloodiest movements against the government's land acquisition for industrialisation.
After years of peace, Nandigram, with 70 per cent Hindus and 30 per cent Muslims, however, is now witnessing political and communal polarisation, with the latter firmly backing the TMC that had controlled the area for the last decade-and-a-half.
The constituency comprises two blocks -- Nandigram I and Nandigram II -- with the first having 35 per minority population and the second almost 15 per cent.
The Election Commission of India had earlier announced that West Bengal will witness eight-phased Assembly polls beginning March 27. The counting of votes will take place on May 2.
Addressing a press conference, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora had said: "West Bengal will see eight-phase elections. 30 Assembly constituencies in five districts will go to polls in the first phase on March 27. 30 Assembly constituencies in four districts will go to polls in the second phase on April 1. In the third phase, 31 constituencies in 3 districts will go to polls on April 6. 44 constituencies in five districts will go for polling on April 10."
"In the fifth phase, 45 constituencies in six districts will witness polling on April 17. 43 constituencies in four districts in the sixth phase will go to polls on April 22. 36 constituencies in five districts in the seventh phase will go for polling on April 26. In the eighth and final phase, 35 constituencies in four districts will witness polling on April 29," he added.
(With PTI inputs)