Kolkata: When the campaigning of Bengal Elections 2021 was taking place, this correspondent went to Nandigram twice. First when Kisan Andolan leaders like Rakesh Tikait, Medha Patekar and others conducted a rally there and next on the last day of campaigning.
On both occasions, with the acumen of a political journalism of almost two decades, I couldn’t help but notice that Mamata Banerjee has a big task at hand in Nandigram. Not just because it was a stronghold of Suvendhu Adhikari and his family, but the way Suvendhu, a former close aide of Mamata, and BJP were fighting against the TMC supremo.
Adhikari was using the Hindutva card and tried to polarize Nandigram. He not only gave communal speeches where he said that if Mamata wins Nandigram will become Mini Pakistan, BJP also put all its might behind Adhikari. For the Nandigram seat alone PM Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh CM Ajay Singh Bisht and film star Mithun Chakraborty, all the bigwigs, campaigned.
When this correspondent visited the battleground on the last day of campaigning, I noticed that a large number of flags from different Hindu organisation were put up all along the road supporting the Hinduvta agenda. This was an attempt to influence those who might not have fallen for BJP’s charms or might be miffed over an issue that lay unaddressed by the BJP government at the Centre.
The other factor that affected the Nandigram battle was CPM candidate Menakshi Mukherjee. Meenakshi is “Bengal’s daughter” just like Mamata, which was sure to appeal to women voters. Had it been a male candidate from the Left alliance he would have caused less damage to Mamata and maybe more to Adhikari. Choice of candidate matters in such close battles.
So it was always a tough contest for the Bengal Chief Minister. But, the choice she made to fight against her former aide and not from another seat, had given a clear message to partymen across that this is an important election for the state and she is willing to take all risks.
The outcome is before us. The people of Bengal have given a clear mandate to the TMC, which is not only bigger in numbers than 2016 Assembly polls, but a message for BJP’s politics of hate, misuse of power and dirty campaigning tricks.
TMC has tasted this victory even after the cross over of its forty-something MLAs to the BJP. It’s noteworthy that they have been able to defeat some of the prominent faces of Bengal BJP including singer Babul Supriyo, Locket Chatterjee and Rahul Sinha.
The 2021 Bengal Assembly polls will be remembered for the fight among unequals — the only (present) woman chief minister in India and a party which claims to be the largest one in the world, and one that didn’t hesitate to resort to all sorts of unethical practices to defeat its opponents.
No political pundit could have predicted that amid all this, TMC will be able to get more than 180 seats, leave alone crossing the figures achieved in 2016, where TMC won 211 seats.
This is such a resounding defeat for the BJP, and particularly for PM Modi and HM Amit Shah, that henceforth their claims of being able to win a certain number of seats in elections will now always be doubted.
Most importantly, the defeat in Bengal will make BJP defensive on its Farm Laws as the mandate has boosted the morale of farmers taking part in the four-month-long historic farm movement. Rakesh Tikait has tweeted the same and said that now Modi government should withdraw the laws immediately.
The mandate of 2021 Bengal Assembly polls has a larger message than Mamata’s personal win or loss. It’s been a landslide victory for the party she birthed and continues to helm. It goes without saying that she fought ferociously and sailed her party to historic victory.