In Nandigram, Mamata Banerjee battles “outsider” tag

Kolkata: The insider-outsider debate — the hottest one ahead of the coming assembly elections in Bengal — surfaced in Nandigram on Tuesday as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee repeatedly underscored her “daughter of the soil” credentials at the spot that played key role in her ascent to power. At Nandigram, Banerjee is facing her erstwhile confidante Suvendu Adhikari, who is now representing the BJP.

Over the last weeks, Adhikari — who won Nandigram in 2011 on Banerjee’s behalf — has repeatedly challenged the Chief Minister.

His followers have adopted the ruling Trinamool Congress’s “outsider” argument about the BJP against her in Nandigram, an area 130 km from Kolkata. Adhikari has dubbed himself “bhoomiputra” (son
of the soil).

Today, without naming Adhikari, Banerjee said she was amazed at the new development.

“I heard some people are calling me an outsider in Nandigram. I am amazed. I was born and brought up in the neighbouring Birbhum district, and the person who is calling me an outsider was also not born here. Today I have become an outsider, and those coming from Gujarat have become insiders in Bengal,” Banerjee said.

Reminding the people how she and her party stood by them when the then CPM government had given a go-ahead to a chemical building unit back in 2010, she said: “When the movement was on in Nandigram and there was Kali Puja at home, I did not go home. I stayed here to help the people.”

“On 14 March 2007, when the firing took place, I was here… trying to enter Nandigram… I did not go away. The Governor called me. He said, ‘Leave the spot. They will throw petrol bombs at you. They will try to kill you’. The next day Anisur brought me here on his motorbike. I walked and reached Tamluk hospital. The CPM never imagined that I could do this,” she said.

Accusing Adhikari of attempting to incite communal feelings, Banerjee said: “Those who have sold their souls to the outsiders are insulting the Nandigram land acquisition movement by playing the communal card.”

“Some people are talking about 70:30 ratio (of Hindu-Muslim population). Those doing that are insulting the sacred Nandigram movement which people of both communities fought together. People of Nandigram will make BJP ”April fool” on April 1 when polling is held,” she added.

The Chief Minister, known to hop pandals inaugurating Durga Puja, also declared today that she is a “Hindu girl” and she could see through the BJP strategy.

“Do you want to play this game,” she questioned after reciting long passages of hymns to Goddess Durga. “You cannot teach me Hinduism. I have shown you that I know the mantras to Goddesses Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kali and Durga. It is not the same as you do, memorising some lines before the election s and spewing them at meetings,” she added.

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