Battle for Nandigram: Massive face-off between Mamata and Suvendu on polling day

Express News Service
KOLKATA: The second phase of West Bengal Assembly elections witnessed a massive face-off between two heavyweight contestants — CM Mamata Banerjee and her former cabinet colleague Suvendu Adhikari — in Nandigram over the issue of the former’s surprise visit to a polling booth.

She rushed to the booth after receiving complaints that TMC polling agents are not being allowed there,  and spent two hours sitting in a wheelchair. Soon after Mamata left, Suvendu visited the same booth and said Mamata was scared of her defeat in Nandigram.

When Mamata was arguing with the senior police officers outside the polling booth, BJP supporters assembled there and raised ‘Jai Sri Ram’ slogans. Another group of TMC supporters, too, gathered nearby and shouted ‘Khela Hobe’ (there will be a game). Mamata called up Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar from the booth and complained to him of “false voting” and “failure” of central force to prevent it. She also wrote a complaint letter to the Election Commission.

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Hitting out at the Centre, Mamata, while leaving the booth, said, “The Union Home Minister instructed the BSF and CRPF to help the BJP. I never saw such bad elections. BJP will be whitewashed in Nandigram.”

Lambasting the Election Commission, the CM said, “The EC is working under the instruction of the Home minister. My humble request to the EC is please don’t act like this in the next phases of the election.”

Shortly after Mamata claimed that her victory in Nandigram is sure, the TMC announced that she will not contest any other constituency in this election.

Mamata also accused the Prime Minister of violating election rules. “Narendra Modi is campaigning in the same district today where polling is going on. He holds rallies and campaigns on the same day when the state goes to the polls. Isn’t it the violation of election rules?” she asked.

The second phase polling in 30 Assembly constituencies in four districts on Thursday witnessed stray violence. In West Midnapore’s Keshpur, BJP candidate Pritish Kunwar’s car was vandalised allegedly by TMC supporters. Windshields of four vehicles of journalists were also smashed in the attack.

In Nandigram, bricks were hurled at Suvendu’s car. Both the TMC and the BJP complained of driving out their polling agents at several places in Nandigram, Chandipur, and Haldia constituencies.

The voters in Nandigram, the epicentre of Bengal’s Assembly elections, appeared to be polarised on the issue of religion. In the constituency, minorities share 26% of the total electorates. In minority-dominated pockets, roads were covered with TMC’s flags and in other areas, BJP decorated the trees and light posts with its party flags.