The most riveting electoral contest in Bengal assembly elections is in Nandigram. CM Mamata Banerjee, also founder of TMC, will face off against BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari. This constituency encapsulates the main subplots of this election. Adhikari was not too long ago one of Mamata’s key political associates. But he has become a high profile defector to BJP, and an aggressive campaigner against Mamata. It’s understandable that some voters wonder if this election is a contest between Trinamool’s A and B teams.
Nandigram is the location of a proposed SEZ by the erstwhile Left Front government which flamed out 14 years ago in a burst of violence. It became a lightning rod, along with Singur, for the things that were wrong with the Left Front administration. The area provided a springboard for TMC’s subsequent ascent to power and Adhikari played a key role in it. Today, the contest in Nandigram is a metaphor for disenchantment among a section with the TMC regime. It’s also a symbol of the unmet challenges of economic development that Mamata once seemed to herald.
The campaign of the main poles, TMC and BJP, is however conventional. It’s centred on personalities, emotions, identity and fear. If Mamata has used the ‘outsider’ tag to combat BJP, Adhikari is following the same approach in Nandigram. A decade after TMC came to power the election rhetoric has a familiar ring. One Sunday, PM Modi addressing a poll rally in Kolkata promised that a BJP government would bring about ‘real change’. Change is the recurring theme in election campaigns but the fluid switchovers of Bengal’s politicians underline that the state needs something more than just rhetoric to witness meaningful poriborton. India’s economic renaissance needs Bengal at its centre.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
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