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Mamata's Nandigram defeat echoes in Tamluk as TMC, BJP prepare for epic showdown

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Debangshu Bhattacharya Abhijit Gangopadhyay

Debangshu Bhattacharya (L); Abhijit Gangopadhyay (R)

Kolkata: As the electoral battle intensifies in West Bengal's Tamluk constituency, a fierce confrontation between the TMC and the BJP looms large with the state's ruling party seeking retribution for Mamata Banerjee's loss in Nandigram and the saffron party striving to fortify its stronghold.

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Former Calcutta High Court judge Abhijit Gangopadhyay, who joined the BJP immediately after resigning from his post on March 5 and was fielded by the party from the crucial seat, and the selection of young Turks Debangshu Bhattacharya and Sayan Banerjee by the TMC and CPI(M) respectively have intensified the political rivalry in the seat.

Nandigram, where the anti-land acquisition movement in 2007 against the then Left Front government was instrumental in the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress' rise to power in 2011 in Bengal, is in Tamluk Lok Sabha constituency.

The enmity between Mamata Banerjee and BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari, epitomised by the latter's victory in Nandigram in the 2021 assembly polls by 1,956 votes, has fuelled the TMC's resolve to avenge their defeat. Adhikari's strategic campaigning for Abhijit Gangopadhyay underscores the BJP's determination to consolidate its position in the region.

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An election petition by Banerjee is pending before the Calcutta High Court challenging the declaration of Adhikari's victory.

"We are seeing this election as an opportunity to avenge the Nandigram assembly poll result," Saumen Mahapatra, the TMC MLA from Tamluk assembly segment, said.

Speaking to PTI, he asserted that according to the results of the zilla parishad and municipal polls conducted subsequent to the 2021 assembly elections, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) maintains a lead of 77,000 votes over the BJP in the Tamluk Lok Sabha constituency and a margin of approximately 13,000 votes in Nandigram.

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Mahapatra claimed that compared to the former judge, Debangshu Bhattacharya is a better candidate, having risen from student politics.

"How can Abhijit Gangopadhyay, who joined politics at a ripe age and grew up in a metropolis, serve the people of rural areas," he asked.

BJP's Moyna MLA Ashok Dinda highlighted that the former judge's lack of political experience serves as an advantage, emphasising his commendable personal attributes. "We are very happy to have Gangopadhyay as our candidate, he is already chalking out various new development plans for the constituency," Dinda, a former Indian cricketer in limited over formats, told PTI.

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"This is not the panchayat election where the ruling dispensation had a sway," he said, maintaining that the parliamentary polls are being held under the Election Commission's watch with central police security.

Tamluk constituency, known to be part of the Adhikari family fortress in Purba Medinipur district, is almost evenly poised between the BJP and the TMC according to the 2021 assembly election results.

In the 2019 LS polls, Dibyendu Adhikari, as a TMC candidate, had bagged a little over 50 per cent votes, while the BJP nominee got nearly 37 per cent votes in Tamluk. CPI(M) bagged about 9.4 per cent votes.

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During the 2021 West Bengal elections, the BJP clinched victory in three out of the seven assembly seats within the Lok Sabha constituency, while the TMC secured triumph in the remaining four. Notably, several segments witnessed intense competition between the two parties, with winning margins falling below 2,000 votes in at least four constituencies - Tamluk, Moyna, Mahisadal, and Nandigram.

The Adhikari family, reputed for its influence across significant areas of Purba Medinipur, dissociated from the TMC and allied with the saffron party following Suvendu's entry into the BJP.

Sisir Adhikari, the patriarch of the family, secured victory in neighbouring Kanthi constituency for three consecutive elections until 2019 under the TMC banner. Presently, his youngest son Soumendu Adhikari is contesting from the same seat as a BJP candidate.

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Asserting that the Adhikari family's influence remains strong across significant portions of Purba Medinipur, and anticipating a shift in votes from the TMC to the BJP, Dinda confidently proclaimed that Gangopadhyay would secure victory by a substantial margin exceeding 2.5 lakh votes.

All three candidates emphasised the need to generate employment opportunities for the youth in the constituency, which houses prominent industrial establishments like the Haldia port, Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) refinery, and Haldia Petrochemicals.

Gangopadhyay, during his public addresses, has pledged to attract more industries to the area to foster job creation. Similarly, TMC's Debangshu Bhattacharya has committed to enhancing job prospects, while CPI(M) candidate Sayan Banerjee, a young lawyer, criticised the Mamata Banerjee-led party for the exodus of industries from Bengal, advocating the Left Front as the beacon of hope for the state's youth.

"Those who had trusted the TMC or the BJP earlier, are now coming back to the Left, understanding the reality that they are only two sides of a coin," Banerjee said.

Expressing confidence in his campaign, Banerjee asserted, "I'm receiving positive feedback from the constituents, and my primary challenge in the constituency lies in combating the electoral machinery of Suvendu Adhikari."

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