TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee interacts with party leaders Abhishek Banerjee, and Prasant Kishor. (ANI photo)
NANDIGRAM: Religious polarisation — even in areas where Hindus and Muslims had together fought the 2007 land acquisition battle — helped BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari script a narrow win in Nandigram, which stood out amidst the Trinamool Congress’s success story elsewhere.
As the cliffhanger entered the last stages, with Mamata Banerjee leading after the penultimate (16th) round, Sonachura and Gokulnagar — among the few villages with a sizeable Hindu population in the Nandigram-1 Block that bore the brunt of the 2007 police firing — sealed the race in Adhikari’s favour.
Banerjee lost Nandigram by 1,956 votes, with Adhikari getting more than 1.1 lakh votes (48.5%) and Banerjee more than 1.08 lakh (47.6%). The semi-urban constituency in East Midnapore has around 2.5 lakh voters, with Nandigram-1 having 1.5 lakh and Nandigram-2 having 1 lakh voters. Nandigram-1 has around 49,000 minority community voters; Nandigram-2 has around 11,000.
Both Trinamool and BJP campaign managers said Banerjee had got almost all the Muslim votes and about 50,000 of the 1.9 lakh Hindu votes. “Adhikari would have got very few Muslim votes and we can safely say his 1.1 lakh-plus votes were almost entirely from the majority community,” a BJP poll manager said
“Banerjee knew she would not have to woo minority voters. So she decided to step into Adhikari’s lair and reach out to Hindu voters, visiting temples, reading shlokas and attempting to neutralise the BJP’s minority-appeasement charges against her,” a Trinamool Nandigram leader said. “It was a close call,” a BJP leader admitted
But it was not just Banerjee’s appeal, or only minority voters, that made the fight a nail-biting one. Poll analysts said every move of Banerjee was targeted to create “maximum impact”. Adhikari repeatedly addressed her as “begum” to polarise the Hindu vote bank, but Banerjee chose to stay in Reyapara’s Sibmandir — a Hindu-dominated zone that shifted allegiance from CPM to BJP — rather than in a “friendly” neighborhood. Ultimately, the win came as a face-saver for Adhikari and BJP on a day when several party heavyweights suffered losses across Bengal.