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BJP leaders Suvendu Adhikari, Mukul Roy, Rajeev Banerjee and others during a roadshow for upcoming polls, in Kolkata recently. Image Credit: PTI

Dubai: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded Suvendu Adhikari, a former aide and confidante of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, against her from the Nandigram constituency in West Bengal — considered to be Adhikari’s backyard and a family pocket borough. This was announced by the BJP Central Election Committee in New Delhi on Saturday as it released the first list of the party’s candidates for the 294-seat state assembly, which will see an unprecedented eight-phase elections starting on March 27 and concluding on April 29.

Former Indian cricketer Ashok Dinda was named as the party’s candidate from the Moyna constituency, while former Indian Police Service official Bharati Ghosh was fielded from the Debra constituency.

Last December, Adhikari, one of Mamata’s closest and most trusted political aides and confidantes in Bengal, quit the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) party citing large-scale nepotism. His ire was primarily directed at Mamata’s nephew and TMC member of parliament from Diamond Harbour, Abhishek Banerjee.

As Adhikari ditched TMC and switched to BJP, there was an outcry within the TMC rank and file, terming him a “traitor”. To pose a challenge to Adhikari at his own pocket borough of the Nandigram assembly constituency, Mamata, even before the Election Commission announced the poll notification for the state, announced at a public rally in Nandigram that she would like to contest the next election from there. This was given the official stamp of approval when on Friday, TMC announced its list of candidates and Mamata was named as the party’s candidate from Nandigram.

In less than 24 hours, BJP, in an apparent show of picking up the gauntlet thrown by Mamata, announced Adhikari as the party’s hopeful for the now do-or-die battleground seat of Nandigram.

The Nandigram constituency in the East Midnapore district of West Bengal holds a special socio-political significance since this was the place where 14 people were killed in police firing while they were protesting the proposed acquisition of agricultural land for the incorporation of a special economic zone in the area for industrialisation by the erstwhile Left Front government. As Nandigram turned out to be the hotbed of state politics, it helped the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC, the then principal Opposition party in the state, to turn the anti-land grab demonstrations and the subsequent killings of 14 people, as the springboard to oust the 34-year-old Left rule in the state.

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The farmers’ agitations in Nandigram — and over another land-acquisition issue in Singur, in the Hooghly district, over the construction of a proposed automobile factory on agricultural land — turned out to be the game changer in Bengal politics that ultimately helped Mamata and her TMC win a three-fourths majority in the 2011 assembly elections in the state and storm to power.

The same Nandigram is once again at the centre of yet another election debate and how!