Left-Cong alliance talks development, assures Singur of industrialisation

Abhishek Law Singur | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on April 25, 2016

Prime challenger Rabin Deb, CPI (M)-Cong alliance candidate from Singur, in a women’s rally in the constiteuncy ASHOKE CHAKRABARTY

“The State government should either give us back the land or release the compensation. We can’t cling on promises only,” says a villager who wished to remain anonymous at Berraberi, in Singur, where land was acquired for the now-relocated Tata Nano project in 2006.

But, this nameless man, who lost one bigha (0.33 acre), will vote for Trinamool Congress yet again on April 30. A similar story plays out at Khaserberi, Gopalnagar, Singerberi and Bajemilia - all bore brunt of the land acquisition for Tata Nano project.

Mamata still popular

While the issue of land return is pending in Court, the land losers apparently have their faith intact on Mamata Banerjee’s earnest. A cash assistance of ₹2,000 per month and rice at ₹2/kg to the “unwilling land losers”, are a hit. The frayed nerves are further soothed by the presence of Rabindranath Bhattacharya, the outgoing MLA from Singur.

A retired school teacher, he was the face of the party’s anti-land grab movement in Singur. Popularly referred as Mastar-moshai (teacher), Bhattacharya commands huge respect for his Spartan lifestyle and empathy for villagers. Singur was the epicentre of the ‘paribartan’ earthquake in 2011 that demolished the 34 years of Left rule in West Bengal.

Nearly 650 acres of 997 acres acquired for the automobile project fall in Singur. In 2011, TMC won by over 34,000 votes with a vote share of 58 per cent.

Discontent over the delay in settling the land tangle notwithstanding, the party maintained a lead of 27,000 in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls over the combined votes of the Left and Congress, who have struck an alliance in 2016. But its vote share dipped to 49 per cent.

“Yes, there is some discontent amongst farmers. But I do not think people have lost faith in us,” says Bhattacharya, ready to face the CPI (M)’s Rabin Deb this year. TMC workers are leaving no stone unturned. Mahadeb Das, an unwilling land-loser and local TMC activist, is the ruling party’s points-man here.

“The CPI (M) government slapped 62 cases against me for raising my voice against acquisition of my four-bigha (1.3 acre) land. I was no exception; they tried to suppress every opposition voice against the land acquisition. Today, I m happy with the State’s assistance,” he told BusinessLine.

Left’s focus on industry

The support of land losers, constituting around 14 per cent of the electorate, is not the only support base of Trinamool. Das says Bhattacharya’s clean image is a major draw for voters.

Bhattacharya however feels that Singur being an agrarian belt, people generally identify themselves with the anti-land grab movement. The Left-Congress combine’s focus is now on industrialisation and employment generation. The alliance has played on the emotional connect, with Rabin Deb campaigning in different parts of Singur in a Nano. He assures that once in power, the land will be used for industrialisation.

“We will re-open the factory if we are in power. This will lead to overall development of the region,” he said during a poll campaign. Deb’s campaign also focuses on what Singur could have been, if the automobile factory had come up.

Plight of farmers

For Farmers’ plight – such as the absence of right support price, non availability of right infrastructure, and failure of the State government to support farmers through groundwater for irrigation – are being raked up in many parts of the Constituency too.

The abandoned factory sheds and herds of cattle grazing in the virtually unmanned premises of the Tata Nano factory are grim reminders of the Left’s failed industrialisation attempts. The calm is at times unsettling. But, is this calm a sign of an approaching storm?

Published on April 25, 2016
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