West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has moved the Calcutta high court challenging her defeat in the Nandigram seat to her protégé-turned-adversary Suvendu Adhikari.
Justice Kausik Chanda is scheduled to hear the high-profile case virtually at 11am on Friday.
Even though the Trinamool Congress (TMC) returned to power for the third consecutive term, Banerjee lost to Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Adhikari by a narrow margin of 1,956 votes. This was Banerjee’s first electoral loss in 32 years.
According to TMC leaders Banerjee’s petition alleged that the votes were not counted properly. Adhikari, who switched to the BJP in December 2020, won the seat and went on to become the Leader of Opposition in the Bengal assembly.
The TMC chief had, on May 3, a day after the election results were announced, said that she would move court.
“We will definitely move court. Our party workers are also staging a protest. We want a written statement from the Election Commission of India [EC] that the EVM machine, VVPAT and postal ballots will be kept separately so that they are not tampered with. And if found tampered with, they will have to undergo forensic tests,” Banerjee had said.
She had also appealed to all political parties to jointly move the Supreme Court against the EC and urge the apex court to impose some restrictions on the poll panel.
“How do you lose an election twice? First, at the hustings and then, like a sore loser, challenging people’s verdict in the court. It would be fascinating to see Mamata Banerjee suffer the humiliation of Nandigram defeat twice over,” tweeted Amit Malviya, national head of the BJP’s IT cell, on Thursday.
Before and during the assembly elections, the TMC was at loggerheads with EC, with the ruling party repeatedly accusing the poll panel of working at the behest of the BJP-led government at the Centre. Both the BJP and the commission had, however, refuted such charges.
Controversy about the Nandigram election had broken out the day it went to polls, April 1. On the day of voting, Banerjee, who was wheelchair-bound at the time because of an ankle injury, levelled charges of booth-rigging and refused to leave a polling station for two hours.
When the election results were declared on May 2, the Trinamool Congress sought a recount when the results were announced but the EC didn’t allow it.
Days later, Banerjee claimed that the returning officer who turned down the request for a recount was threatened, a charge the BJP promptly dismissed, insisting that the chief minister wasn’t able to “accept the reality”.
The defeat in Nandigram was a blow to Banerjee, who led her party to a landslide victory in West Bengal assembly elections with 213 of the 292 seats — her party’s third straight win.
Banerjee, who represented Bhabanipur in the 2016 assembly, announced her decision to contest from Nandigram a month before the eight-phase elections began.
The high-profile seat, where a land agitation in 2007 propelled TMC to power in the state, elected Adhikari in 2016 when he was with the TMC.