News APP

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  gplay  » News » Suvendu's Career Hinges On Tamluk

Suvendu's Career Hinges On Tamluk

By Ishita Ayan Dutt
May 25, 2024 13:28 IST
Get Rediff News in your Inbox:

'The life of his political career is dependent on success in this constituency.'

IMAGE: Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Amit A Shah and Suvendu Adhikari during an election rally in Birbhum, May 10, 2024. Photographs: ANI Photo

On March 14, 2007, about 14 people lost their lives when the police force opened fire at a gathering of land protestors in Nandigram. It has been 17 years since the bloody farmland agitation changed the political landscape in West Bengal.

This rural hamlet, which was once the cradle of the anti-land acquisition stir, is desperately craving for industrial development and employment opportunities.

Sukumar Jana's wife, Supriya, had left early morning on that fateful day to join the protests. Emotions were running high then -- the tulsi mancha at home and the family agricultural land of about an acre had to be protected. Unfortunately, she fell prey to the bullets.

Peace has now returned to Nandigram.

Jana's son now works with the Indian Railways in Haldia, courtesy of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who was appointed the railway minister in 2009. But his loss is irreparable. "I never remarried," says Sukumar.

The one-acre plot he owns is single-crop, which is hardly remunerative these days. It is not an isolated case. Jana and several others from his tribe are willing to sell their land if compensated adequately. And the importance of industrial development is not lost on any of them.

"The number of educated people in Nandigram has increased in the last many years. Industry will create jobs and resolve unemployment issues," he says.

Gurupada Mandal, who owns 2-3 bighas, says, "100 per cent, I will give land, but due process must be followed."

Adequate compensation, one job per land loser, and rehabilitation are going to be determining factors. Bula Shyam Mandal, who protested the land acquisition, believes he was misled. "We were protesting land acquisition for industry. But where is the industry? In so many years nothing has happened."

"Three of my sons are in Delhi for work. If the industry had come up, my sons would have been here." Mandal owes his allegiance to Suvendu Adhikari, once described as Banerjee's protégé. He crossed over to the Bharatiya Janata Party in December 2020 and turned adversary.

IMAGE: Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee with the party's Lok Sabha candidate from Tamluk, Debangshu Bhattacharya, March 10, 2024.

Near the Bhangabera Bridge -- close to the police firing site -- a 130-foot Shaheed Minar, built at the initiative of Adhikari, then a Trinamool Congress MP from Tamluk, stands tall. It serves as a reminder of an event indelibly marked in the history of Nandigram, as well as Adhikari's role in the land movement.

Achilles heel

The lack of setting up a big industry has been Banerjee's Achilles heel. The anti-land acquisition movement back then was over the Indonesia-based Salim group's chemical hub project spread over 14,000 acres.

It was proposed as part of the erstwhile Manmohan Singh government's initiative to specify a petroleum, chemical, petrochemical investment region and the then Left Front government evinced interest in having the project near Haldia due to proximity to the port. Haldia is about an hour's drive from Nandigram.

The project never took off, but the land stir rocked West Bengal. Along with the anti-land acquisition movement in Singur, the events are seen as catalysts in the change of regime in 2011 when the TMC ousted the Left Front regime after 34 years.

A lot has changed in Nandigram since. The roads are better, there is electricity and drinking water facilities. But as people on the ground point out, industrial development would bring their sons, who are working outside the state, closer home.

Migrant workers

The TMC government has been facing heat from the Opposition on the issue of migrant workers.

At a recent event in Kolkata, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that till 2010, when the Communist government was in power, the net migration into Bengal was in the positive territory.

Sayan Banerjee, CPI-M candidate in Tamluk, points out that the biggest industrial hub is Haldia, came up during the Left Front regime.

"But even the industrial belt is on the decline. The situation is such that the youth in Haldia are going to other states as migrant labourers. We have to revive Haldia and we need the Left Front in power to do it."

Haldia and Nandigram are among the seven assembly constituencies in the Tamluk Lok Sabha constituency, which is part of the Purba Medinipur district.

Debangshu Bhattacharya, the TMC candidate in Tamluk, concedes that people in Nandigram go to Haldia for work and also outside the state.

"My primary aim will be to provide jobs to the unemployed in Tamluk Lok Sabha constituency," he says, adding that people also come from other states to work in West Bengal.

IMAGE: Retired Calcutta high court judge and the BJP candidate from Tamluk, Abhijit Gangopadhyay, campaigns in the Mahishadal area, East Medinipur.

Suvendu factor

In Tamluk, the TMC and CPI-M have fielded young turks. Bhattacharya, 27, who shot to fame with the viral song, Khela Hobe, ahead of the 2021 assembly election, is the TMC candidate.

Advocate Sayan Banerjee, 31, is the CPI-M's face for the seat. They are pitted against the BJP's Abhijit Gangopadhyay, the former judge of the Calcutta high court, known for taking on the TMC inside and outside the courtroom.

Political analysts, however, believe that what will weigh heavily on the seat is the Adhikari factor. Adhikari wields considerable influence in Purba Medinipur -- it is widely believed that he had galvanised the land agitation movement under the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee, an organisation formed with the support of various parties who opposed the industrial project in Nandigram.

In the 2021 assembly election, while the TMC swept Bengal, Adhikari won the prestige battle in Nandigram by defeating Banerjee with a slim margin of 1,956 votes. Banerjee has often raised doubts over the outcome of the seat.

In the state election of 2021, of the seven assembly constituencies in Tamluk, the BJP won in three assembly segments, including Nandigram, and the TMC in the remaining four. Which way the political wind will blow on May 25 when Tamluk goes to vote, remains to be seen.

Political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty says the Tamluk election is being fought on the Suvendu factor. "If BJP fails to secure the seat, then it will go against him. The life of his political career is dependent on success in this constituency."

Get Rediff News in your Inbox:
Ishita Ayan Dutt in Nandigram
Source: source
India Votes 2024

India Votes 2024