With the first phase of the West Bengal Assembly election over, the focus has now shifted to the all-important seat of Nandigram which will go to polls on 1 April.
With Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee set to take on her once-trusted aide Suvendu Adhikari at Nandigram, both the Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party have pulled out all stops in a bid to win the seat.
On Monday and Tuesday, Banerjee will take part in two roadshows in the constituency, which will cover both the blocks that are part of the seat. She will also reportedly address as many six rallies in the course of the two days.
Amit Shah, on his part, is also slated to hold a massive roadshow on Tuesday to drum up support for Adhikari. Campaigning for Nandigram will end on Tuesday evening.
TMC goes all out to thwart BJP challenge
Mamata Banerjee had first announced her intention to contest from Nandigram at a rally on 18 January. Since then, the TMC has been on an overdrive in seeking to ensure the chief minister's victory from the seat. The party's top brass " party chief Subrata Baxi, Cabinet minister Purnendu Basu and Rajya Sabha MP Dola Sen " have been camping in the constituency in the past one month, as noted by The Hindu Business Line.
Banerjee has also rented a house in Nandigram and is campaigning from there.
Both the TMC and BJP have expressed confidence about winning the all-important seat. An article in News18 has quoted a TMC leader as saying, "She will win comfortably in Nandigram. There is no anger against her amongst the people¦she will win her seat, defeating Suvendu Mukherjee by a comfortable margin."
Adhikari, on his part, has vowed to defeat Banerjee by over 50,000 votes in the seat or quit politics.
The chief minister and the BJP candidate have exchanged sharp barbs at each other, with the former referring to Adhkari as a 'traitor' and the BJP leader referring to Banerjee as an 'outsider'.
At a recent rally, Banerjee claimed that she did not understand that Suvendu, his father Sisir and brother Soumendu would turn out to be "venomous snakes". Likening herself to "andha (blind) Dhritarashtra" of the epic Mahabharata, she said that blind love for some people had made her naive.
Claiming that the Adhikari family was not with the TMC from the beginning, Banerjee even accused them of having worked against the Nandigram agitation. "Without knowledge of the father-son duo, police action could not have happened," she said.
At least 14 agitators were killed in police firing at Nandigram on 14 March, 2007, following which the Calcutta High Court had ordered a CBI investigation into it. Both Banerjee and Adhikari had taken part in the subsequent agitation against land acquisition in the area.
Several local factors also may have a significant bearing on the electoral contest in Nandigram. As noted by an article in Firstpost, one such factor could be the influence of Firoja Bibi, who was the MLA representing Nandigram from 2009 to 2016. Although she now represents the Panskura Paschim constituency, she is said to have considerable heft and has chosen not to back Adhikari in Nandigram.
Various other issues " such as alleged mismanagement of cyclone Amphan relief money on the one hand, and state government schemes to provide free ration and facilitate getting official documents on the other hand " are also expected play a role in the poll battle. However, it is clear that the TMC and BJP will both make sure that their rivals sweat it out for every vote in the constituency.
Elections to the 294-member Assembly will be held in eight phases from 27 March to 29 April. The results will be declared on 2 May.
With inputs from PTI