Those who have 'sold their souls to outsiders from Gujarat' are insulting the Nandigram movement by playing the communal card, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Tuesday, and rejected the claim that she was an outsider in Nandigram.
Banerjee is pitted against her former confidante Suvendu Adhikari, who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party some time ago, in the
high-profile Nandigram seat that will go to poll on April 1 in the second phase.
Without naming Adhikari even once, Banerjee said she had made up her mind to contest either from the Singur or Nandigram --the two cradles of anti-land acquisition movement -- that catapulted her to power in 2011.
She said she decided to contest from Nandigram because of overwhelming response of the people.
"I have 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 born in Midnapore. Today I have become an outsider, and those coming from Gujarat have become insiders in Bengal," she told a gathering of TMC workers a day ahead of filing her nomination.
"Going by that logic I shouldn't have been the chief minister of the state for 10 years. Today Bengal's daughter has become an outsider for some people. Have you ever heard the expression outsider chief minister? If the locals tell me not to contest, I will go back," she said, drawing shouts of 'Didi we want you' from the gathering.
Adhikari has often called himself 'bhoomiputra' (son of the soil) while seeking to get back at the TMC supremo who has been targeting the BJP with the 'party of outsiders' barb.
The TMC turncoat has announced that if he is not able to defeat the TMC supremo by 50,000 votes he will quit politics.
Banerjee said her decision to contest from Nandigram was prompted by the love for the local people.
'Bhulte pari sobar naam, bhulbo nako Nandigram (I can forget everyone's name but never forget Nandigram)... When I had visited Nandigram in January, there was no MLA from here as the sitting MLA had resigned. I looked at the faces of common people and decided to contest from here."
Banerjee said her home constituency was Bhawanipore where she would require much less effort to win, but still chose Nandigram as she could see people's love and enthusiasm.
Accusing Adhikari of trying to incite communal passions, Banerjee said, "Those who have sold their souls to 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 asserted.
Taking the fight to Adhikari's backyard, Banerjee said the Nandigram movement wouldn't have got the momentum it did had the Singur anti-land acquisition stir not taken place before that.
"Singur movement took place months before the Nandigram movement. I had already completed 26 days of hunger strike against Singur land acquisition in December 2006. It was then that Nandigram happened in 2007. The Singur movement provided much-needed momentum to Nandigram movement," Banerjee said.
The TMC supremo said those claiming the legacy of the movement should not forget how she had been with the masses of the area risking her life.
"At that time those who are lecturing us, where nowhere near the scene," she said, apparently suggesting that Adhikari, who is seen as the face of the Nandigram movement, had no major role in the agitation.
Referring to the BJP's charge of being anti-Hindu, Banerjee said she is a Brahmin and knows more Hindu rituals than the 'fake Hindu leaders' of the saffron party.
"I am a born Hindu. No one should question my identity. But I don't believe in dividing communities on religious lines. If anyone has any doubt about my religion, I challenge them to a debate and competition on reciting Hindu shlokas. Khela Hobe (the game is on)," she said and recited a few shlokas before the crowd.
Announcing that the TMC will unveil its election manifesto on March 11, Banerjee said she will perform 'Shivaratri puja' in Nandigram on Thursday morning before heading back to Kolkata.
Banerjee alleged the BJP has roped in CPI-M 'goondas' who perpetrated violence during the Nandigram movement.
"Resist them at any cost," she said.
She said she wanted a bridge to be constructed between Haldia and Nandigram, and develop Nandigram as a role model.
"I do not want anyone in Nandigram to stay unemployed. We will build a university here. I have taken a house in Nandigram on rent for a year. Will keep coming here every three months. Later, I will build a small house here. I will keep my word," she added.