The third contender: On the Nandigram campaign trail with CPM’s Meenakshi Mukherjee

The contest in Nandigram has been billed as the clash of the bigwigs, with Mamata Banerjee facing aide-turned-foe Suvendu Adhikari. But there’s another name in the fray.

ByMeghnad S
The third contender: On the Nandigram campaign trail with CPM’s Meenakshi Mukherjee
Kartik Kakar
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In the high-pitched electoral battle in Nandigram, there is intense focus on two bigwigs that are going up against each other – chief minister Mamata Banerjee from the Trinamool Congress and her former aide Suvendu Adhikari from the BJP.

But there’s a third candidate in the fray who hasn’t been getting much media attention. Meenakshi Mukherjee, president of the Bengal chapter of the Democratic Youth Federation of India, or DYFI, is the nominee of the CPIM-Congress-Indian Secular Front alliance, known as the United Front.

We decided to go check out one of her rallies in Nandigram, which votes on April 1. The idea was to interview her, to know what she was all about, and understand the CPIM’s strategy in Nandigram specifically and the rest of the state generally.

It really didn’t go as planned.

As we neared the venue of the rally, there was a traffic jam. We stepped out to find out what was going on, and found a group of people agitating with CPIM flags.

We found out that they were agitating against Abbas Beg, a panchayat leader from the Trinamool, who had allegedly manhandled Meenakshi the previous day but faced no no action.

Eventually, though, we managed to speak with Meenakshi. “You can’t tell the difference between BJP and TMC workers here. Morning they’re with TMC and by evening they are with the BJP. They’re all the same,” she said. “The Election Commission is not working, police are not working. Instead, they threaten our workers. So we were forced to come out on the streets and agitate.”

When we asked her about the alleged incident, she said, “Their work is to manhandle. They have manhandled people for so long, they have stolen relief material for Cyclone Amphan survivors, rations and from more schemes. The TMC slaps false cases on us and harasses us all the time. It has been 24 hours, and the accused hasn’t been arrested. The police are just standing here doing nothing.”

Who exactly had manhandled her? “Abbas Beg, Daudpur panchayat member,” she replied. “Abbas Beg!”

The candidate wouldn’t talk any further; she removed the mic and went to her comrades, telling them to sit down. A total of 32 people sat down. We counted.

While Mamata is organising big rallies, full of song and dance, Suvendu is relying on street-corner meetings and road shows. Meenakshi seems to be doing a bit of both, on a much smaller scale. We’ll know soon which of these is a winning strategy.

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