The stage is set and the game has begun. The battle of Bengal has now shifted to the battle for Nandigram, where Didi will face her disciple in the fight of the year. The protégé, Suvendu Adhikari, had challenged his political mentor, Mamata Banerjee, to contest from Nandigram, and the West Bengal Chief Minister has taken the bait.
Now the question is if the BJP has won the first round against Mamata Banerjee forcing her to move out of her political den of Bhowanipore, the assembly seat in south Kolkata that she won in 2011 and 2016?
In his first mega rally in Kolkata after the announcement of poll dates in West Bengal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a jibe at Mamata Banerjee saying that her scooty is destined to fall in Nandigram as it has turned away from Bhowanipore.
On the other hand, her once-trusted lieutenant and the BJP candidate from Nandigram, Suvendu Adhikari, in his last rally trained guns on the TMC chief calling her an outsider for the constituency and asserting himself as the son of the soil. Ironically, the West Bengal Chief Minister has been targeting the BJP and its leaders with the same 'outsider weapon'.
The political developments in Bengal have triggered debates if the BJP has turned the tables on Mamata Banerjee? Has she fallen into the trap of overestimating her influence in the state? Or she has made a well-calculated move to fight back to power from the epicentre Nandigram?
West Bengal's Nandigram, along with Singur, propelled Mamata Banerjee to power in 2011. The two hotbeds of land-acquisition movements had helped her oust the 34-year-old left government in Bengal. Then Suvendu Adhikari was her wingman to build the TMC's foundation in Nandigram.
Why Mamata chose Nandigram over Bhowanipore?
Now Didi wants to resurrect her radical image instilling confidence among the party cadre that the exodus of TMC leaders has not weakened her. She plans to kill two birds with one stone contesting from war zone Nandigram: first, put an end to any future dare in the TMC defeating her challenger in the election and, second, emerge stronger relaunching herself as an invincible force in Bengal.
Mamata Banerjee could have ignored the provocations and continued to contest from Bhowanipore, but she accepted the challenge. Many believe the BJP pushed her to the wall and ignoring the dare could have sent a wrong message to the TMC workers. Now she hopes to regain control of Bengal taking the Nandigram route and her party leaders are projecting it as a sign of her faith in people.
Poll analysts believe depleting support for the TMC could be another reason for Mamata leaving the Bhowanipore seat. Her winning margin from the constituency shrunk by 29 per cent in the last assembly elections in 2016 and the lead of just 3,500 votes from the locality in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls was not very encouraging.
The 'outsider' factor can also not be ignored, because the south Kolkata seat has over 70 per cent non-Bengali population, who Didi might have believed could shift their loyalty in the upcoming elections. At the same time, in Nandigram, 30 per cent of minority votes will be a plus-point in raising the prospect of her comeback in the high-pitch battle.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of India TV. The author can be reached on Twitter @iamomtiwari)