.NANDIGRAM BAK1 WB-POLL-NANDIGRAM-INDEPENDENTS Independents in Nandigram seat fighting for father's honour, to have a feel of contesting polls Pradipta Tapadar Nandigram (WB), Mar 22 (PTI) Amid the fight of titans in West Bengal's Nandigram in the upcoming assembly elections, the high-profile constituency is also witnessing the battle of the minnows with independents in the fray for a variety of causes ranging from a bid to have their name etched in local folklore to restoring a father's lost honour.
As mainstream parties fight it out for political one- upmanship in the agrarian constituency, the independents have a different personalised agenda.
Twenty-eight-year old Sheikh Saddam Hossain is fighting to restore the honour of his father Mohammed Ilyas, who is a former two-time CPI MLA from Nandigram.
Ilyas had to resign in 2007, months after he was caught on camera allegedly taking a bribe from an NGO for development work in a sting operation by a TV channel.
'My father was innocent. he was framed by a local politician during the turbulent days of the anti-land acquisition movement in 2007-08. He was very popular among local people.
'There was a conspiracy to remove him from his post by accusing him of being involved in corruption. And the worst part is neither his party Communist Party of India (CPI) nor the then Left Front stood by him or tried to know the truth,' he said.
Saddam had quit the CPI a few days back after it was decided that the CPI(M) would contest from the seat.
'Nandigram seat has been a bastion of the CPI since the 1960s when iconic CPI leader Bhupal Chandra Panda used to contest from this seat. But the CPI decided to give this segment to the CPI (M).
'I decided to take it upon myself to fight for my father's honour. And what could be a better opportunity than fighting this time when the entire focus is on this high profile seat,' he said.
His father, Mohammed Illyas, who was expelled from the party after the sting operation, said he would campaign for his son.
'This is an irony that the journalist who had conducted that fake sting operation on behalf of the TMC, Sankudeb Panda, is now with the BJP and Mamata Banerjee is fighting against Suvendu Adhikari. This is life,' Saddam told PTI.
A bloody farmland agitation in Nandigram changed West Bengal's political landscape, and shook the foundations of the mighty 34-year-old Left Front regime in the state, propelling the TMC to power in 2011.
This rural assembly segment is again back in the national limelight with TMC supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee taking on her protg-turned-adversary Suvendu Adhikari here for the April 1 polls.
Eight candidates are in the fray for the Nandigram seat. Besides Banerjee, Adhikari and Saddam, CPI(M) nominee Minakshi Mukherjee, SUCI(C) 's Manoj Kumar Das and three more independent candidates are contesting from the seat.
Dilip Kumar Gayen, a 44-year-old independent candidate, is fighting the election to have his name etched in the political history of Nandigram.
'All the focus is presently in Nandigram, so I thought it could be the best way to get my name etched in the electoral history of this place. Whenever any analysis on the election to the seat will be conducted, my name will be there.
'That's all I want,' Gayen said while adding that except filing nomination, he has no interest in campaigning even for a single day.
Sixty-two-year old Subrata Bose is infuriated as he is getting too many calls these days and facing inquiries about the reason behind his decision to contest as an independent from the seat.
'I am a citizen of this country and have every right to contest an election. I am not answerable to anyone,' Bose, a resident of Kolkata, said.
Echoing Bose, 33-year-old Swapan Parui also said he is in the fray to have a feel of fighting the polls.
'I want to serve my country, so I decided to contest polls,' he said.
After the 2006 assembly polls, this is the first time that independents have filed nominations from the seat.
In 2006, when the CPI had won the seat, two independents had garnered 2,100 and 1,300 votes, respectively.
Adhikari won the Nandigram seat as a TMC candidate in 2016 by bagging over 67 per cent of the votes. He defeated his nearest rival, from the CPI by a margin of 81,230 votes. In 2011, TMC's Firoja Bibi had won the seat.
The opposition CPI (M) and the BJP believe that the TMC is behind the independents. 'When every vote counts, and there are so many independents, it has to be understood that the ruling party is behind this to cut opposition votes. But this time, such tricks won't yield any result,' Adhikari's election agent and BJP leader Meghnath Paul said.
The TMC, however, denied the allegations and said going by that logic, Suvendu was the MLA from the seat and is fighting to retain it.
'We don't have to follow such cheap tricks. Suvendu is the sitting MLA from this seat, and he is seeking re-election. I think the BJP has only fielded so many independents to cut votes,' Sheikh Sufiyan, Banerjee's election agent said.
Elections to 294 assembly seats will be held in eight phases between March 27 and April 29. Votes will be counted on May 2. PTI PNT BDC JRC JRC