In a big claim, TMC-turned BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari while addressing a poll rally in West Bengal's Jhargram said that the 2018 panchayat polls were rigged. He claimed that he was in TMC then and had witnessed how TMC used police force and rigged the ballots. He said that the people of Jhargram and Purulia had voted for the lotus. Claiming that Mamata Banerjee-led party used force to not allow the opposition to file their nomination, Adhikari said violence was unleashed on the polling day on the orders of TMC. His claim assumes significance as in 2018, the TMC won uncontested in around 34.2% seats.
Adhikari, who was one of the close aide of Mamata and Nandigram mastermind, said, "I was then in the TMC. People of Jhargram and Purulia had voted for the lotus (symbol of BJP). But the TMC used police force that night, till around 3 am, to rig the ballots. It was the BJP who had actually won the Zilla Parishad of Jhargram and Purulia. But the public opinion was never reflected."
He continued, "The opposition was not allowed to file their nomination. Goons armed with guns and bombs had surrounded the BDO offices, where nominations were to be filed. Opposition leaders were implicated in false cases and some were even abducted to ensure that they are not able to file nominations. They were not allowed to campaign, and violence was unleashed on the polling day."
Adhikari had earlier taunted CM Mamata and claimed that more TMC leaders will exit the party. Banerjee has announced that she will contest from Nandigram seat where she will be trounced. Besides, her vote share in Bhowanipore constituency has also shrunk drastically since the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The TMC supremo may also declare in the coming days that she will contest from Domjur or Bally seats. But wherever she goes, she will face the music," Adhikari said while addressing a public meeting.
Intensifying the battle for Bengal, Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee on 18 January, announced that she will contest from Nandigram in the upcoming state polls. She suggested that she may contest from both Bhawanipore and Nandigram, setting up a direct faceoff with her ex-confidante Suvendu Adhikari. . The ex-Nandigram MLA was the mastermind of the 2007 Nandigram agitation - responded, "I will leave politics if I fail to defeat her by half a lakh votes". However, he later said that he will ensure the victory of anyone who contests on BJP ticket from Nandigram.
The BJP has claimed it'll win 200 seats, while the Trinamool, via Prashant Kishor has contended that the saffron party won't cross 99. West Bengal assembly with 294 seats will go to polls in April-May 2021, Trinamool holds 222 seats. BJP has made major inroads in the state in the Lok Sabha elections winning 18 seats and establishing itself as the major opposition force in the state. Mamata Banerjee has announced that she will contest polls from Nandigram, the place that paved way for her rule in the state, and her ex-aide Suvendu Adhikari - who is now in BJP - has vowed to defeat her.