Suvednu Adhikari filed his nomination papers from Nandigram on Friday amid much fanfare. Suvendu, ex-minister from the Trinamool Congress, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party late last year. He is pitched in a high stakes battle with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Suvendu had won the seat in 2016 state elections, on a TMC ticket with a whopping margin of over 80,000 votes, the third highest in the state.
"There is a lack of employment opportunities in the State. To bring change, we need to remove this TMC. TMC has turned into a private company, where only 'Didi' and 'Bhaipo' can speak freely," Adhikari says ahead of filing nomination.
“I hope to receive people's blessings. I'm confident people will support BJP and bring it for real development in West Bengal. There is no question of any competition. BJP won 18 Parliamentary seats in 2019 and it will form a strong government this time with a huge margin,” thundered Suvendu Adhikari.
It’s a do or die battle for Adhikari. Suvendu who was expected to win the seat comfortably, got a shocker of his life when Mamata decided to contest against him from Nandigram, in a bid to teach her chela a lesson for ‘disloyalty’.
Mamata had won the 2016 assembly elections from Bhawanipore seat with a margin of over 25,000 votes.
Mamata camp claims Suvendu is nothing without the TMC, while Adhikari claims he and his family are the real architects of the Nandigram movement which propelled the party to victory in 2011 state elections.
The battle has turned ugly with Mamata sustaining injuries in an accident/alleged attack in Nandigram on the day she filed her nomination papers. While TMC has alleged conspiracy, BJP has called it a political stunt.
This has heated up the environment in the constituency and there are fears the elections could turn ugly. Nandigram will vote in Phase 2 on April 2.
Suvendu has turned the heat on Mamata labelling her an outsider. "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," said Adhikari in a rally in the constituency.
Suvendu’s brother Dibyendu is sitting MP from Tamluk Lok Sabha seat under which Nandigram Vidhan Sabha seat falls. He is not on good terms with TMC leadership, skipping its rallies and events. It is rumoured he too might join the BJP soon; some observers believe he is buying time and will take any decision only after the polls.
Source: Election Commission
Suvendu got 67% votes in 2016 as a TMC nominee, BJP got 5% and CPM 27% in 2016 state polls. In the 2019 general elections, Dibyendu as TMC nominee got almost a similar vote share of 63%. Most of CPM votes shifted to BJP in line with the trend in the state as it improved its vote share to 30%. The Left nominee got barely 4% votes.
How many votes both Suvendu and Mamata can get?
TMC claims most of the votes which Suvendu got in 2016 were on account of the popularity of Didi as it maintained its vote share. Suvendu claims the votes received are his family votes as it enjoys immense clout in the region.
As a thumb rule: (i) one-third of the votes a candidate gets is on account of the party / symbol (committed ideological voters), (ii) one-third on account of the popularity of the state / central leaders (leadership factor), (iii) and another one-third on account of candidate’s popularity / image / efforts (local factor).
By this logic, Suvendu is likely to get ⅓ of the TMC votes plus votes received by the BJP in 2019 general elections. Mamata is likely to get ⅔ of TMC votes. This places Suvendu slightly ahead.
The constituency has a 65% Hindu and 35% Muslim population. Suvendu after joining the BJP is likely to be deprived of the minority community votes which Suvendu would have got in 2016. With majority minority community likely to back Mamata and majority Hindu community likely to back Suvendu, this could turn into a highly polarized election.
Mamata is likely to get a decent share of the Hindu community votes, while Suvendu is unlikely to get any minority support. By this formula, Mamata is slightly ahead.
To sum up, all in all a very close election is on the cards in Nandigram.