Nandigram (West Bengal): Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo and chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday declared she will contest the upcoming Assembly election from Nandigram, as she took her battle for West Bengal to the home turf of poitical heavyweight Suvendu Adhikari, who recently quit the TMC and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Banerjee is at present the MLA from Bhawanipore in South Kolkata.
She said these leaders left the ruling party to protect the money "they have looted" in the past few years.
"I have always started my campaign for the Assembly polls from Nandigram. It is a lucky place for me. So this time I feel that I should contest the Assembly polls from here. I request our state party president Subrata Bakshi to approve my name from this seat," Banerjee said.
Bakshi, who was on the podium, swiftly accepted the request.
Nandigram was the scene of massive public protest against alleged "forcible" land acquisition by the then Left Front government for creation of a special economic zone.
The protracted protests added to Banerjee and her party's political heft and catapulted the TMC to power in 2011, marking the end of the Left Front rule of 34 years.
Adhikari is considered the face of the ‘movement’ in Nandigram.
After switching over to BJP, Adhikari has often accused Banerjee of having forgotten the people of the area who helped her gain power in the state.
"If possible, I will contest from both Bhawanipore and Nandigram. Nandigram is my elder sister and Bhawanipore is my younger sister. I will give a strong candidate from Bhawanipore also, in case I don't fight from that seat," she said.
Banerjee said she would never allow "a handful of people" to sell out Bengal to BJP.
"Those who have left the party have my best wishes.
Let them become president and vice president of the country. But don't you dare to sell out Bengal to the BJP," she said.
TMC sources said Banerjee's announcement would help galvanise party workers in East and West Midnapore districts and adjoining areas who were feeling “rudderless” after Adhikari quit the party.
Attacking BJP for inducting a raft of leaders from rival political parties, Banerjee said it had turned itself into “washing powder” where tainted leaders come out clean after joining the saffron camp.
"BJP is the biggest junk party in the country. BJP is not a political party but washing powder. It's using moneybags and intimidatory tactics to lure or coerce TMC leaders into joining them," she alleged.
Banerjee asserted the TMC will win a third straight term in office and the BJP will be decimated.
The TMC supremo also alleged the BJP has bought off some media houses which are coming up with fake surveys favouring the saffron party in the Assembly elections.
Adhikari, a close aide of Banerjee, switched over to BJP in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah last month.
He also persuaded his younger brother Soumendu, who was removed as Kanti municipality administrator, to join BJP.
His another younger brother Dibyendu and father Sisir Adhikari are TMC Lok Sabha members from Tamluk and Kanthi. Both gave Banerjee's rally a miss.
Recently, quite a few TMC leaders, including some MLAs, joined BJP at a rally held by Amit Shah.
(The story has been slightly edited)