Amid war of words, Mamata files nomination from Nandigram (Ld)

Amid sharpened attacks from BJP heavyweight Suvendu Adhikari, Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday filed her nomination from Nandigram in East Midnapore, the high-profile constituency where the two seasoned politicians will cross swords in the coming Assembly elections.

Banerjee took part in a 2-km long roadshow in Haldia before filing her nomination at the sub-divisional office there, accompanied by the party’s state President Subrata Bakshi.

Hundreds of locals walked with Banerjee enroute the SDO office, beating improvised drums and other instruments. The Chief Minister also offered prayers at a temple near the Reyapara locality before filing her nomination.

The Trinamool supremo had been contesting polls from her home seat of Bhawanipore so far. Earlier, she had declared at a rally in Nandigram in January this year that she would be contesting from the high-profile seat this time, saying: “I will contest from Nandigram. It is my lucky place.”

Nandigram is a stronghold of newly-inducted BJP leader Adhikari, who was elected from the seat in 2016 before becoming a minister in the Mamata Banerjee-led state cabinet. Adhikari had joined the saffron brigade in December last year. The rebel Trinamool leader had claimed earlier that he would defeat Banerjee by over 50,000 votes in Nandigram.

Seizing the opportunity, the saffron brigade also announced Adhikari’s name as the party’s candidate from Nandigram. As a result, the Nandigram Assembly constituency has virtually turned into a high-octane battleground for the warring Trinamool and BJP camps with the state’s two political titans – Banerjee and Adhikari – locking horns with each other.

Adhikari said on Wednesday that the people who have been duped by multi-crore chit fund scams in West Bengal would get their money back if the saffron party is voted to power, holding the Trinamool leadership responsible for the scams which looted crores of rupees from the public.

“Now Banerjee has stopped saying Inshallah. We saw that she took an offence to the Jai Shri Ram chant during Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s birth centenary celebrations in January this year. Yesterday, she wore a slipper inside a temple. She is a Banerjee, a Brahmin, then why does she have to say that she is a Hindu,” Adhikari asked at a public rally in Nandigram, after inaugurating the BJP’s election office.

At the rally, Adhikari also played recordings of Chandipath (holy chant) and then replayed Mamata Banerjee’s version. “All her mantras were wrong,” he said, mocking Banerjee’s incorrect chanting of holy texts. The BJP’s Nandigram candidate further attacked Banerjee for using the Hindu religion for politics.

“I have requested Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to come to Nandigram and deliver a speech. Yogi-ji can chant the correct mantras, he should be brought here once to correct Mamata Banerjee’s chants,” Adhikari said.

He also took potshots at the West Bengal Chief Minister, terming her as an outsider in Nandigram. “I am a ‘bhoomiputra’ (son of the soil) in Nandigram and a regular voter here. She does not even cast her vote in Nandigram. I know this place and its people for several years, unlike Banerjee who has come to Nandigram only for the elections,” he said.

Adhikari further said that he would file his nomination from Nandigram on a BJP ticket on Friday (March 12).

“Union ministers Smriti Irani and Babul Supriyo are likely to be present with me at the time of filing the nomination,” he said.

Sources said other big names like Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan and newly-joined BJP face and veteran Bollywood superstar Mithun Chakraborty may also be present at Adhikari’s rally on Friday.