The Bharatiya Janata Party on Saturday announced that former Trinamool Congress leader Suvendu Adhikari will contest the West Bengal Assembly elections against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in Nandigram constituency.
The BJP made the announcement while releasing the first list of 57 candidates for the polls that will begin later this month. With this the party has announced candidates for all but three of the 60 seats which will go to polls in the first two phases. Nandigram will go to polls in the second phase on April 1.
“Jungle raaj prevails in the state, and voters have made up their mind to oust the Trinamool Congress,” BJP General Secretary Arun Singh said at a press conference. He added that of the 57 seats, the BJP has left one seat, Baghmundi in Purulia district, to its ally All Jharkhand Students Union.
Former Indian cricketer Ashoke Dinda and ex-Indian Police Services officer Bharati Ghosh are also among the candidates announced by the BJP.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address a rally in Kolkata’s Brigade Parade ground on Sunday, his first after the announcement of the election dates.
Amit Malviya, the BJP’s co-incharge for West Bengal, tweeted: “The BJP has announced Shri Suvendu Adhikari as its candidate from Nandigram. Mamata Banerjee will soon join the inglorious list of incumbent chief ministers to lose their own elections. Let the drums roll...”
The saffron party’s announcement came a day after Banerjee said she will contest elections from Nandigram, and vacate her own seat of Bhowanipore in Kolkata. “I will contest from Nandigram as I stick to my words,” Banerjee told reporters.
Trinamool Congress leader Sovandeb Chattopadhyay will contest from Bhowanipore in Banerjee’s place.
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.
The constituency is also a stronghold of Adhikari. In January, the 50-year-old had exuded confidence that he would defeat Banerjee if fielded from Nandigram. “I will defeat her by a margin of at least 50,000 votes or I will quit politics,” he had claimed.
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.