West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday announced that she will contest the upcoming Assembly elections from Nandigram, and would vacate her own seat of Bhowanipore in Kolkata, NDTV reported. The Trinamool Congress also announced candidates for 291 of the 294 Assembly seats in the state.
“I will contest from Nandigram as I stick to my words,” Banerjee told reporters after making the announcement. Expressing confidence about her victory, she termed the contest as a “smiley election”.
Nandigram is the stronghold of Suvendu Adhikari, one of the top leaders of the Trinamool Congress who switched sides to join the Bharatiya Janata Party, ahead of the record eight-phased election. Trinamool Congress leader Sovandeb Chattopadhyay will contest in Banerjee’s place from Bhowanipore in Kolkata, where the chief minister had contested for the last decade.
“I am going to Nandigram on March 9,” Banerjee told reporters, according to ANI. “On March 10, I will file the nomination at Haldia.”
The chief minister also thanked Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav, Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren and the Shiv Sena for extending support to her.
She took on the the BJP reiterating her “outsider” attack on the saffron party, The Hindu reported. “Bengal will be administered by people of the State and not by outsiders who are trying to capture with the help of goons,” she said.
Commenting on the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Congress, she accused them of having a “100% understanding” with the BJP.
The chief minister also said that the elections should be fair and central agencies and the Election Commission should not favour the BJP.
“We respect the ECI [Election Commission of India] but they should not play the BJP’s game,” Banerjee said, according to The Hindu. “This time, we are going to be very aggressive and will fight till the end.”
The Trinamool Congress has fielded 50 women, 42 Muslim candidates, 79 Scheduled Caste candidates and 17 Scheduled Tribe candidates this time for the elections, according to NDTV. According to the total list of Trinamool Congress candidates, cricketer Manoj Tiwari will contest from Shibpur, filmmaker Raj Chakraborty from Barrackpore, actor Kanchan Mullick from Uttarpara, actor Soham Chakraborty from Chandipur, actress Sayani Ghosh from Asansol (south), Santhali actress Birbaha Hansda from Jhargram and former footballer Bidesh Bosh to contest from Uluberia.
The elections to the 294 seats in West Bengal will be held in eight phases from March 27 to April 29. The results will be declared on May 2. The state will see a three-cornered fight between the Trinamool Congress, the BJP and an alliance between Left parties, Congress and the Indian Secular Front.
The chief minister’s decision to contest from Nandigram is significant as the constituency symbolises the Trinamool Congress’ struggle in 2007-’08 against the forcible land acquisition by the then Left Front regime for the creation of a special economic zone. The Nandigram movement, a campaign for farmers’ land, had catapulted Banerjee to power in the 2011 state elections. It marked the end of the decades-long Left rule in the state.
On January 18, Adhikari had exuded confidence that he would defeat Banerjee in Nandigram if he is fielded from there by his party. “I will defeat her by a margin of at least 50,000 votes or I will quit politics,” the BJP leader had claimed.