In a duel ahead of the panchayat polls, BJP strongman Suvendu Adhikari and TMC's second-in-command Abhishek Banerjee took on the other's home turf on Saturday, showcasing their might and raising the political temperature of the state on a December afternoon.
Addressing a rally in South 24 Parganas's Diamond Harbour -- the Lok Sabha constituency of Banerjee, Adhikari asked BJP workers to be prepared for a "big battle" with an eye on the panchayat polls, due to be held early next year.
Alleging that BJP candidates were not allowed to file their nominations in the 2018 panchayat elections, he warned that this time around the "game" will be a different one.
"You decide the names of candidates from the villages and we will ensure that they are able to file their nominations," he told BJP workers.
"I will hold a huge rally in this district again this month," he added.
Brushing aside the TMC's allegations of stepmotherly treatment of West Bengal, Adhikari claimed that Rs 19,000 crore has been given to the state by the Centre this month.
"The Centre has given funds under PM Awas Yojana, Samagra Shiksha Mission and PM Gram Sadak Yojana," he said.
On the other bank of the Hooghly, Banerjee addressed a rally in Purba Medinipur's Kanthi -- just a stone's throw away from Adhikari's residence.
Calling Adhikari a 'RAC' Leader of Opposition, alluding to the railway's reservation against cancellation rule for seats, Banerjee maintained that his victory in last year's assembly elections in Nandigram over Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was under a legal challenge.
Banerjee, the nephew of the chief minister, alleged that Adhikari had won the election by "unfair means", and claimed that fresh elections would lead to his "befitting" defeat.
"He claims to have defeated the CM. He calls her a compartmental CM. Before name-calling Mamata Banerjee he must realise that he himself is a RAC opposition leader. He is the only MLA in India, whose victory is still under trial," the TMC's national general secretary said.
"You took to 'load shedding' (power black-out) to win the Nandigram election... media had telecast that Mamata Banerjee won the elections. Take it from me that if there is a fresh election in Nandigram, people here will give a befitting reply," he said.
The junior Banerjee launched 'Ek Dake Abhishek', an outreach programme, in the district from the rally ahead of the rural polls.
He said people can call him with any problems. "You can directly contact me daily from 9 am to 6 pm. Anyone who has anything to say, call me directly."
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