Kolkata: The poll campaigning at Nandigram reached its crescendo and there was a bitter war of words between the main rivals - Trinamool Congress' Mamata Banerjee and BJP's Suvendu Adhikari, her close follower-turned-political foe.
The lights are trained on the high voltage campaign for the prestigious seat in Purba Medinipur district, which is set to conclude on Tuesday evening as the polling there is slated to be held in the second phase on April 1.
In a barb aimed at Adhikari and his father Sisir Adhikari, who are influential political leaders of the area, Banerjee claimed that the entry of police in Nandigram on March 14, 2007, had led to the killing of 14 supporters of the historic anti-farmland acquisition movement, could not have taken place without their knowledge.
“Without the knowledge of the father-son duo, police could not have entered Nandigram on that day,” she said.
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“It is my fault that I had showered so much love on them,” said the TMC supremo, who has in her campaign meetings branded the Adhikari family without naming them as 'traitors' after Suvendu, his father Sisir and brother Soumendu Adhikari quit her party to join BJP.
“What did I not do for them. I had made him (Suvendu Adhikari) transport, environment, irrigation minister, I had made him the chairman of Hoogly River Bridge Commissioner. I made his father (Sisir Adhikari) chairman of Digha Development Authority, I made his brother (Soumendu Adhikari) chairman of Haldia Development Authority. I made his brother the chairman of Contai Municipality. I had given at least 10 plum postings to a single-family and this is how they reciprocated, this is how they betrayed as venomous traitors,” she said.
Banerjee told a public meeting in Nandigram during the day that while those involved in the movement were framed at the behest of BJP government at Centre, the Adhikari family, which too was involved in the agitation, had remained unscathed. “This showed the extent of understanding and setting between them.”
She claimed that goons of the then ruling CPI(M) had entered Nandigram in police uniform but wore slippers that gave away their identity.
“Similar planning is being done here again,” she alleged.
“Didn't the traitor (Suvendu Adhikari) know that the police will enter Nandigram on that fateful day and that there would be trouble? How many times did they speak to Buddhadeb Bhattacharya (the then chief minister)?” Banerjee asked, claiming that she has some information as the chief minister.
Reacting sharply to Banerjee's charges, Sisir Adhikari said “She is speaking nonsense as she has understood that she is going to lose in Nandigram.”
“Banerjee has reaped the benefits of the Nandigram movement due to Suvendu who had risked his life in the fight against the CPI-M terror. She had used him, she had used me in her rise to the seat of the CM. Now she is speaking against us as we had protested against her way of functioning. She stands exposed before the people of Nandigram and Bengal,” he said.
He hit back at Banerjee for her allegations that the Adhikari family had shifted allegiance to BJP to save themselves from being hounded by the central agencies after amassing huge properties in the Kanthi-Digha-Nandigram belt.
“We had shifted to BJP after being ill-treated and abused by the TMC leadership for the past several months despite giving our best for the TMC. People of Purba Medinipur (district) will give her a befitting reply,” Sisir Adhikari said.
“The TMC supremo is mouthing inanities after seeing the poor turnout in her meetings and becoming certain that she will be defeated by a huge margin in Nandigram,” Suvendu Adhikari said.
On Banerjee's allegations that he is polarizing voters in Nandigram and engineering riots, the BJP leader said ‘in fact, it is she who is communalising the atmosphere to get more votes’.
“She had been pursuing the politics of appeasement for all these years and had sown the seeds of division. We (BJP) believe in taking along all in the path of development; we don't believe in preferential treatment to one community. In Nandigram those supporting her policy are getting isolated. She can see the writing on the wall,” he said.
CPI-M leader Bikash Bhattacharya said, “The Nandigram incident was a conspiracy, an attempt to malign the then CPI-M-led Left Front government.”
Party leader Sujan Chakraborty said Banerjee is getting exposed by her own utterances. “She will be unmasked as more days go by,” he added.