Campaigning for the 2nd phase of Bengal elections ended yesterday. Polling for 30 seats will be held on April 1, including the prestigious Nandigram seat.
‘Chor Chor, Chopta (Thief, Thief)’ verus ‘Bole Bole Nandigram, Jai Sri Ram’: these two slogans have captured the mood of the voters as both sides pitched hard in this high octane contest in Nandigram.
Incumbent Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is facing her protege Suvendu Adhikari who switched over to the Bharatiya Janata Party last December just before the elections. The atmosphere in the constituency is highly polarized with both sides expressing confidence of victory.
While Suvendu has claimed he would defeat Mamata by not less than 50,000 votes, Mamata’s election campaign manager this countered claim, saying she will win by 70,000 votes. The party is banking on the silent women voters who have benefitted from TMC schemes to bail her through.
Suvendu is thesitting MLA from the constituency, while his brother Dibyendu is sitting MP from Tamluk Lok Sabha seat which houses Nandigram.
Both, the Trinamool Congress and the BJP went all out on the last day to woo the voters. Union Home Minister Amit Shah and actor Mithun Chakraborty held roadshows in support of Adhikari.
“Bole bole Nandigram, Jai Shri Ram, Jai Shri Ram,” loudspeakers blared out this slogan at Amit Shah’s road show. Shah, firing a salvo at Mamata, thundered:
“If Mamata Didi is defeated by a mammoth margin in Nandigram, the Bengal polls are won. That is the easiest way to bring poriborton (change) in Bengal.”
Mamata crisscrossed the constituency addressing public meetings. She accused the BJP of “bringing in ruffians from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar” and distributing money to purchase votes.
She alleged that the BJP was using PM Cares Fund money and resources amassed during demonetization to lure voters in Nandigram. She hit out at Adhikari, repeatedly calling him a traitor.
Adhikari retaliated by calling Mamata a liar. “The begum’s defeat is written on the wall,” he said at a rally. Borrowing from Amit Shah’s famous speech in Bihar in 2015, Adhikari alleged that those backing Mamata in Nandigram burst fire-crackers when Pakistan won a cricket match against India.
As Mamata’s cavalcade crossed Shah’s roadshow point, she was greeted with ‘Jai Shri Ram’ chants. No, this time, she didn’t stop her vehicle. BJP supporters even put up ‘Om’ flags outside her makeshift residence in Nandigram. All of this suggests she is facing a tough battle.
Mamata flaunted her gotra before signing off from Nandigram continuing with her soft Hindutva pitch. "Actually I am 'Shandilya'," - one of the eight highest Brahmin 'gotras'. Union Minister Giriraj Singh retorted that the chief minister was announcing her gotra in desperation and asserted that her defeat is certain.
A purportedly fake survey carried out by Prashant Kishor’s IPAC was circulated in social media groups showing BJP crossing the three digit mark and Didi losing in Nandigram.
Nandigram is predominantly a rural seat with 16% Scheduled Caste and 26% Muslim population. It has a population of 3.31 lakhs, with Block I accounting for 62.5% while Block II for the rest 37.5%. Block I has 34% minority population while Block II has just 12%.,
The BJP polled more than 40% vote share in 82 of 278 polling booths in 2019 general elections, as per an analysis by India Today. TMC led in 244 of 278 polling booths in the constituency. BJP is naturally far stronger in Nandigram Block II than in Block I.
TMC bagged 63% votes (130k) while BJP 30% (62k) in 2019 Lok Sabha seat in Nandigram assembly segment. CPM and Congress candidates contesting separately bagged 11,000 votes. TMC received 43% vote share while BJP 40% in the 2019 general elections.
Proprietary calculations by author show that out of the 130,000 votes received by the TMC, 65,000 were from OBC and General Hindu population, while 46,000 came from the Muslim community.
Break Up of Votes of Candidates in Nandigram Vidhan Sabha (2019)
The BJP mainly received support from SC, OBC and General Hindus. The party seems to have received less support in Nandigram than in the overall state. The Muslim community vote is likley to stay with TMC, though there is not much room for further consolidation.
If BJP and Suvendu are able to pull half of the Hindu community votes which TMC received in 2019 due to polarization and popularity of the Adhikari family in the area, then Suvendu can give Mamata a scare and cause an upset.
Scenario I: 2021 Likely Break Up of Votes of Candidates
If the TMC received 63% vote share in this seat in 2019 Lok Sabha elections versus its statewide vote share of 43%, 20% vote share received by the party is on account of clout of the Adhikari family.
This translates to 26,000 votes. If this is added to BJP’s votes then it comes to 88,000, while TMC votes reduce to 104,000. In this scenario, the situation is flipped and Mamata could emerge victorious.
Scenario 2: 2021 Likely Break Up of Votes of Candidates
Scenario 2 shows that even though it is the local / home turf of Suvendu and he claims to be the real architect of the Nandigram movement, it is not going to be a cakewalk for him.
The minority community votes he used to receive are likely to dry up. He will need to slog really hard to defend his fiefdom as Mamata is a VIP candidate.
The results of Nandigram will set the tone for the Bengal electoral outcome. If Suvendu wins, then most likely the BJP will dethrone TMC in Bengal as it would indicate the significant anti-incumbency sentiment against the current regime.
If Mamata wins, then it could point towards TMC retaining the state against the might of the BJP machinery. Mamata could then attain the status of giant killer and TMC could project Didi as the rallying point of anti-BJP forces in the country.
An interesting battle on the cards.