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‘In 34 years, contribution of Left was lockouts, strikes, flight of capital’

Abhishek Law Singur (West Bengal) | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on April 26, 2016

RABINDRANATH BHATTACHARYA, TMC MLA

In this year’s polls, people of West Bengal will repose faith in Mamata, says TMC leader Rabindranath Bhattacharya



Rabindranath Bhattacharya, Trinamool Congress (TMC) MLA from Singur, is the Minister of Statistics and Programme Implementation. He was the face of the party’s anti-land grab movement in Singur, when Tata Motors was setting up the Nano factory. Popularly called ‘Mastar-moshai’ (teacher), Bhattacharya commands huge respect, even amongst political opponents, thanks to his spartan lifestyle and empathy for villagers. He spoke to BusinessLine on growing discontent amongst Singur’s land losers, and why the 2016 elections are different for the TMC.

There is discontent growing amongst the unwilling land-losers. Your comments…

True. Some small numbers of farmers are discontent or unhappy because of the delay in getting back land.

But a majority of people have still not lost hope or faith in this government. They believe that if any resolution is possible, it will be through us only, as our earnestness is visible.

You were the face of the Singur movement whose cornerstone was returning land. Ten years later…

In 2016, I expect a resolution to the impasse (if land can be returned or not); whether it is by virtue of a Supreme Court judgement, or through an out-of-court amicable settlement between the parties.

Are you in favour of an out-of-court settlement?

Yes, I have always spoken for an amicable out-of-court resolution.

What is the government’s opinion on the case?

I don’t see a problem. The mediator can be anyone, a politician, industrialist, intellectual or any neutral person.

In 2008, then Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi had attempted to resolve the issue. It failed. Why are you hopeful about an out-of-court settlement now?

The then Governor brought together the State government and Opposition parties to the table. I too was part of the mediation. The agreement then was unwilling farmers will get back some land from within the (Tata) project area and the remaining will be returned to them from nearby areas. No numbers were specified. The project would come up on the land which was handed over wilfully. Both the government and the TMC led-Opposition agreed to this arrangement. Even Mamata Banerjee had agreed to this arrangement. Accordingly, we started surveying the acquired land to demarcate the plots.

However, the then ruling party (Left Front) and higher satraps in the organisation struck down the agreement. The party agreed to release 25 acres only. Hence it fell through. So today if both parties (TMC government and the Tatas) can set aside their differences and through a neutral mediator resolve issues, then I’m sure farmers will welcome and accept the same.

The Left is campaigning hard, promising industrialisation of the region and withdrawal of Singur case. Isn’t it more believable?

In 34 years, they could not bring industry to Bengal. Their contribution was lockouts, strikes and flight of capital. People saw that. In these five years they have not done anything to regain people’s trust. Today, their promise of industrialisation is a fake and people will see through.

How does TMC woo the majority of the Singur electorate who are not land losers?

A majority of the electorate of Singur are not related to the anti-land acquisition movement. But, this being an agrarian belt, all of them are sympathetic to the cause of land-losers and the movement. A number of people are also impressed with the government doles (16 kg rice at ₹2/kg and ₹2,000 per month).

How different is the 2016 election compared to 2011 for the TMC?

In 2011, it was the anti-Left sentiment that worked in favour of Trinamool. This means every negative vote for the Left went to the TMC. But, 2016 is where the party’s poll plank is the development undertaken in the last five years. It is about reposing the faith people have in Mamata Banerjee.

Your journey in the Cabinet has been a roller coaster, from important portfolios like secondary education and agriculture to a low-key one. What are your expectations now?

I do not hanker for power or a ministerial berth. In 2012, I wanted to leave the Cabinet on my own. For six months, I refused to take responsibility or any benefits that come with a Cabinet berth. Nor did I attend office. This time, I was not expecting a nomination either because of dissidence within the party.

Published on April 26, 2016
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