NEW DELHI: The chief minister of any poll-bound state holds a crucial place in the elections. He or she plays a key role in the performance of the ruling party. In the ongoing elections, three such leaders are facing unique challenges this time.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee
TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee had contested and won the 2011 and 2016 assembly elections in West Bengal from Bhowanipore.
Usually, sitting chief ministers do not change their constituencies. However, she sprung a surprise by shifting from her traditional seat of Bhowanipore to Nandigram in this election after her former confidante-turned-rival Suvendu Adhikari quit the TMC and joined the BJP in December last year.
Before he quit the TMC, Adhikari was a minister in the Mamata cabinet. He was an MLA from Nandigram where he is believed to wield considerable influence among the masses. He had played a pivotal role in the 2007 Nandigram movement when the Left Front government tried to acquire land for conversion to a special economic zone.
Violent clashes had broken out between the locals and the police and several people lost their lives. This agitation catapulted Mamata Banerjee to power and brought an end to the 34-year-old Left rule in the state.
After Adhikari quit the TMC, Mamata, known to be a street-fighter, threw an open challenge to him and declared that she would contest from his den in Nandigram.
Adhikari too accepted the challenge and declared that he would quit politics if he did not defeat Mamata by half a lakh votes in Nandigram.
Now, Nandigram, which votes on Thursday, is perhaps the most high-profile constituency among all the five assemblies going to polls. It is because Mamata, in a bold and rare move, decided to shift her traditional seat and contest from her opponent’s traditional constituency.
Former Puducherry chief minister V Narayanasamy
After the 2016 Puducherry assembly elections, senior Congress leader V Narayanasamy was installed as the chief minister of the Union Territory (UT).
The Congress government led by Narayanasamy fell on February 22 after it failed to prove a majority in the 30-member assembly. This was triggered by the resignations of six Congress MLAs and a DMK legislator in January and February.
Earlier this month and in a rare development, the Congress dropped his name from the list of candidates to fight the April 6 assembly election.
It is rare for a party not to field a sitting CM in the elections. Even though Narayanasamy lost power before the polls, he was the most prominent face of the Congress-DMK alliance.
Narayanasamy had to pay the price for doing a wrong translation at a public meeting of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.
In the local dialect, a fisherwoman had complained to Rahul that nothing had changed in the UT and that Narayanasamy had not visited the cyclone-affected areas. However, Narayanasamy twisted her statement and made it a praise for him.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned the dropping of Narayanasamy while addressing an election rally in Puducherry on March 29 and said it was unique.
The PM said, “I have had a reasonably long experience in politics. I have seen many elections. But, the Puducherry election 2021 is unique. Do you know why? Because the sitting chief minister has not been given a ticket.”
Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal
The BJP had contested the 2016 Assam assembly elections without naming a chief ministerial candidate. After the party won, it shifted Sonowal, who was a Union minister in the Modi government, as the state chief minister.
Usually, incumbent chief ministers automatically become the face of the party for the next elections. The party in power even formally announces the sitting CM as their chief ministerial candidate.
However, that is not the case in Assam this year. The BJP has not named Sonowal as the chief ministerial candidate. This has given rise to confusion among the rank and file of the party as well as the voters.
It is being speculated that state finance minister and BJP heavyweight Himanta Biswa Sarma may replace Sonowal as the next CM if the BJP retains power.
Sarma, who is also the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) convenor, filed his nomination from his traditional constituency of Jalukbari earlier this month amidst speculations of he likely being the next chief minister of the state as the BJP has not projected any face for the upcoming elections.