Who has been fooled on this April Fool's Day can only be known on 2 May. Nandigram – a very important seat in West Bengal assembly elections – went to polls yesterday (1 April).
As the poll campaigning reached its climax ahead of Thursday's voting, West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress's chief Mamata Banerjee who is contesting this year's polls from Nandigram made an explosive remark in a rally.
She reminded the crowd present there about the infamous incident of police firing in this constituency back on 14 March 2007 when the Left Front was ruling the state. She said in that incident in 2007, Suvendu Adhikari and his father Sisir Adhikari – who are influential political leaders of the area – hired goons to fire at common masses wearing police uniforms. At least 14 people were killed in the police firing.
Tensions over Nandigram had been going on for a long time. At a time when the situation in Nandigram was almost going out of the control of the administration, the then chief minister of the state Buddhadeb Bhattacherjee ordered a police operation in the area. However, there was no instruction for direct firing. A review of the overall situation at that time makes it clear that the police had caused a great deal of violence that day. After the Trinamool came to power in 2011, many senior police officers were promoted and given good postings. Some of them have joined Mamata Banerjee's party after retiring from their job. Mamata Banerjee wants to become a testifier of the killings by goons in police uniforms.
Mamata Banerjee has revealed this information 14 years after the incident. If the allegation is true, then what a big conspiracy took place on the soil of Nandigram in 2007 to end 34 years of Left Front rule!
Trinamool Congress first nominated a Muslim woman to this seat in the 2011 elections. Mamata Banerjee did not run directly in the first round of that election, as she was then serving as a Union Minister. Mamata Banerjee was the Railway Minister in the Manmohan Singh government from 2009-2011. Later, Mamata won a by-election and became the chief minister of the state.
Suvendu Adhikari who had been Mamata's close follower won this seat in 2016. Suvendu who was also given the charge of five ministries left the party a few months before the ongoing election and joined the BJP.
As Muslims constitute a significant portion of Nandigram's population, Suvendu Adhikari has turned the constituency into a politics of communal division. And Mamata Banerjee chose to fight from Nandigram instead of her old Kolkata seat, throwing a direct challenge against Suvendu Adhikari.
It's a death knell for both of them. If Suvendu Adhikari loses the election, he will fall behind in the politics of West Bengal. And if the Trinamool Congress returns to power in this election, there is no doubt that Mamata Banerjee will file a case against Suvendu Adhikari for killing common people by hiring goons in 2007.
Meanwhile, this allegation raised by Mamata against Suvendu has given birth to concerns among the people of Nandigram. In the past, when the people of Nandigram fought over land during the Left Front, there was no communal divide among them.
The Muslims of Nandigram are already backward people. Economically, a large part of them make a living by working as peasants and day labourers.
To the extent that Nandigram is now communally divided, the people of the area are worried about their future. They are apprehensive of what might happen to them after the election.
Will the Sheikhs and Babus be able to storm the tea table in the same tea shop as before? Will Muslims and Hindus sit and chat in the same place as before? Will they be able to forget the election results after the election like before?
Even though Suvendu Adhikari is the member of the Legislative Assembly from the constituency, the area has not seen much development. The area has been deprived of all types of development including road infrastructure.
And surprisingly yet, no one is thinking about these issues of development in this election. Everyone is thinking mainly about communalism. What will happen after this election is the main discussion of the people here.
Prime Minister Modi's visit to Bangladesh and the events that have taken place here have made Muslim voters in Nandigram even more apprehensive. The anti-Modi incidents inside Bangladesh have created a panic among Muslim voters in Nandigram. As a result, over the last one week, the Hindu and Muslim voters in Nandigram are apparently heading towards extreme communal division.
The BJP has contributed most to the rise in communalism in West Bengal – this is what the people of West Bengal think now. Everyone sees that the BJP wants to conquer West Bengal only through religious division.
The number of public rallies held by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah in the last one month in West Bengal is higher compared to the number of public rallies they held in any state in the past. This is because the BJP thinks that 27% Muslim voters will never support it. Therefore, the party believe religion will be most effective for defeating these Muslim voters.
Now let's see who wins from this seat. Whoever loses will have to lose from the political arena.
The BJP's victory in West Bengal will add another dimension to all-India politics. Assam elections are also being held at the same time. It is possible for the BJP to win that election too. As a result, the BJP's power in West Bengal and Assam – two of India's bordering states with Bangladesh – is likely to have an impact on Bangladesh's internal politics.
It is difficult to say at this moment what shape the politics will take after the recent Hefajat incident in Bangladesh.