File Photo
File Photo

In an open challenge to her once confidante and ex-minister Suvendu Adhikari, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday announced that she will contest the upcoming state assembly elections from the Nandigram seat.

The declaration is being considered as Mamata's move to take her battle for West Bengal to the home turf of political heavyweight Suvendu Adhikari, who recently quit the TMC and joined the BJP.

An open challenge

That Banerjee chose Nandigram to make the big announcement reflects the TMC supremo's determination to take the BJP, which has launched a spirited campaign to unseat her after a decade-long stint in power, head on.

The announcement came at her rally held in Nandigram -- the Assembly constituency earlier represented by rebel Trinamool leader Suvendu Adhikari who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bengal last month.

"I will contest from Nandigram. It's lucky for me. Think I won't be able to give much time to Nandigram as I will have to campaign in all 294 seats. You will have to ensure that 'thing' (her victory) and the rest I will take care later," Banerjee told the rally.

Addressing the rally, Banerjee said she is not worried about those joining rival parties as they were hardly around when the TMC was formed.

Banerjee said these leaders left the ruling party to protect the money "they have looted" in the last few years.

The Chief Minister said that she would contest the election from two constituencies, including Bhabanipur in Kolkata, which is her home turf.

"I don't want to neglect Bhabanipur also," she added.

"I have always started my campaign for the assembly polls from Nandigram. It is a lucky place for me. So this time I feel that I should contest the assembly polls from here. I request our state party president Subrata Bakshi to approve my name from this seat," Banerjee said.

All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) state president Subrata Bakshi, who was on the podium, swiftly accepted the request.

Bakshi also announced Mamata's name from Nandigram constituency in the coming election that is due by April-May this year.

"As long as I'm alive..."

Banerjee is at present the MLA from Bhawanipore in south Kolkata.

"If possible, I will contest from both Bhawanipore and Nandigram. In case I am unable to contest from Bhawanipore, someone else will," she said.

Banerjee said she would never allow "a handful of people" to sell out Bengal to the BJP.

"Those who have left the party have my best wishes. Let them become president and vice president of the country. But don't you dare to sell out Bengal to the BJP. As long as I am alive, I won't allow them to sell out my state to the BJP," she said.

The significance of Nandigram

Nandigram came to the political spotlight in 2007 after 14 villagers were killed in a police firing for protesting against a proposed SEZ project, cleared by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left Front government .

Nandigram was the scene of massive public protest against "forcible" land acquisition by the then Left Front government for creation of a special economic zone.

The protracted and often bloody protests added to Banerjee and her party's political heft and catapulted the TMC to power in 2011, marking the end of the Left Front rule of 34 years.

Adhikari is considered the face face of the movement in Nandigram, some 130 km south-west of Kolkata.

After switching over to ther BJP, Adhikari has often accused Banerjee of having forgotten the people of the area who helped her gain power in the state.

Assembly elections in the state are likely in April-May.

(With inputs from agencies)

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