Kolkata, Mar 14: BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari, who is pitted against his mentor turned adversary, Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, in the Nandigram assembly seat, on Sunday locked horns with his former party seeking to appropriate the legacy of Nandigram movement just days ahead of the assembly polls. The TMC observes March 14 as ‘Nandigram Divas’ to pay respect to the 14 people killed in police firing on this day during an anti-land acquisition stir in 2007. The TMC, after coming to power, has also been observing the day as Krishak Divas.
Adhikari, who was considered the face of the movement, lashed out at the ruling TMC, saying that “opportunists” who have given promotion to the officers responsible for the 2007 police firing have no right to seek votes from the people of the area as they have insulted the sacrifices made by the agitators. Without naming Banerjee who is also the chief minister, Adhikari said that those who had forgotten Nandigram for 12 years are now coming to seek votes.
Banerjee has left her Bhowanipore constituency in Kolkata to contest the Nandigram seat. The anti-land acquisition movement there had catapulted her party to power in 2011. She paid tributes to the agitators killed in a police firing in 2007 and participated in a rally on a wheelchair to commemorate the day in Kolkata.
Banerjee said that she has chosen to fight “anti- Bengal forces” in the constituency as a mark of respect to the martyrs. At a programme held in Nandigram, Adikari said, “Fourteen people were martyred in police firing in 2007. I have been coming here every year since 2008 to pay tribute to the sacrifices made by the people of Nandigram.
“Whether it is an election season or not, it hardly matters to me, unlike the opportunists who are now coming to this place,” he said offering floral tributes to those killed in the police firing. “It is ironic that those who have given promotions to the police officers responsible for the Nandigram massacre are now celebrating Nandigram Divas. The TMC has also inducted some of these police officers into their party after their retirement,” the BJP leader said.
He urged people not to cast a single vote for the TMC that has “betrayed and insulted you all.” Adhikari said as he branded his rival Banerjee as an “outsider” in Nandigram. Earlier in the day, in a series of tweets, Banerjee said that farmers are the pride of West Bengal, and the state government is working tirelessly for their development.
“On this day, in 2007, innocent villagers were killed in firing at #Nandigram. Many bodies could not be found. It was a dark chapter in the history of the state. A heartfelt tribute to all those who lost their lives,” Banerjee tweeted. “In memory of those who lost their lives in #Nandigram, we observe March 14 as #KrishakDibas every year and give away the #KrishakRatna awards. Farmers are our pride, and our government is working for their all-round development,” she said in another Twitter post.
The CM said that as a mark of respect and encouraged by her “brothers and sisters of Nandigram”, she is contesting polls from this “historic place”. “It is my great honour to be here and work along with members of Shaheed families against anti-Bengal forces,” she said.
Senior TMC leaders Purnendu Bose and Bratya Basu, who visited Nandigram this morning, paid floral tributes to the martyrs and met their family members. “We don’t need lessons on Nandigram or its movement from traitors. The Nandigram movement would not have happened had Mamata Banerjee not been there. So those who are trying to appropriate the legacy of Nandigram are actually insulting the people of this area,” Basu said.
Banerjee, then the opposition TMC leader, had spearheaded a movement against the Left Front government’s acquisition of arable land in Nandigram and Singur for industrialisation. Suvendu’s was then her trusted lieutenant in Nandigram. Nandigram assembly constituency is set for a high- octane battle with Banerjee deciding to contest the seat against Adhikari, who switched over to the saffron camp in December last year.
Adhikari won the Nandigram seat in the 2016 assembly election, while another TMC candidate emerged victorious from the constituency in 2011. Elections to the 294-member assembly will be held in eight phases between March 27 and April 29. Votes will be counted on May 2.
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