The BJP’s alleged interference in the poll process apart, the Adhikari family too does have a clout in the area and Suvendu Adhikari must be having a considerable chunk of voters who are loyal to him, not to his party.
In comparison, Mamata Banerjee too has some positive son her side. Neutral observers say that people on the ground acknowledge her work and various welfare schemes she has launched. Many of those reporting from the ground said that women have voted for the chief minister in large numbers.
Nandigram has over 25 per cent Muslim population. It is anybody’s guess who would they vote for in such a highly polarised election. The Congress-Left are said to have deliberately given room to Mamata Banerjee on this seat by not fervidly contesting the poll.
Data shows that among the 271 polling booths in 2016 Assembly polls, Trinamool had bagged more than 40 per cent votes in 270 polling booths. This dominance did change a little with the saffron surge in 2019 Lok Sabha polls but the overall picture remained unchanged.
Suvendu Adhikari, who was Didi’s lieutenant till the other day, has never lost in Nandigram. He must have nurtured loyalties over the last 10 years in the region. The rest he could buy with the maddening amount of money that his
newly found love BJP is said to have pumped into Bengal in general and Nandigram in particular.
However, there is a section of voters that is seeing him as a betrayer. Banerjee tried to convey this in her poll rallies that Adhikari was a “Mir Jafar”, a trusted military commander of Bengal’s Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah who betrayed the Nawab during the famous Battle of Plassey in 1757. Siraj ud-Daulah’s defeat is considered a major turning point. Subsequently Mir Jafar became synonymous with betrayal in common parlance.
Banerjee did tell the voters to not go with a deserter. There are no reasons to believe that a number of people would not give heed to this plea. They see Banerjee as a victim of betrayal at the hands of her own commander.
Then Adhikari joining the BJP of all parties has not gone down well with many people. Bengalis in general are not very fond of being heckled with “Jai Shri Ram” slogans. They usually like the syncretic Durga Pooja culture where Muslims take part in the celebrations along with the Hindus. The Bengali identity overlaps over the religious identity.
A Muslim youth who voted for Adhikari in last election taunted, “When he was with the TMC, he considered us as deshbhakt. Since he has joined BJP, we became deshdrohi for him.”
Mamata Banerjee’s connect with the people cannot be undermined. A Kolkata based journalist who worked with Jansatta and Sanmarg for decades told NH, “Predecessors of Mamata were ideologues, intellectuals…In comparison with them Mamata is nothing. But the connect that she has with the people is unparalleled. In people’s opinion, she is a mass leader, representing Bengali identity which is under attack by the Gujarati invaders.”
The results will be out on May 2. Till then, the paid media may push all sorts of unfounded speculations. But those who have an ear on the ground assert that Didi is going to form the next government in Bengal.