Serampore to Arambagh, Singur shadow on West Bengal polls

Factionalism within the Trinamool, disillusionment among villagers help BJP make inroads

Published: 01st May 2019 02:03 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st May 2019 10:06 AM   |  A+A-

Edible models of PM Narendra Modi, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on display in Bengal | PTI

Express News Service

SINGUR (HOOGHLY) : Wounded Tata Motors left more than a decade ago, but Singur is still bleeding. Three years after Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, armed with an apex court order, returned land on which Tata’s Nano plant was built, a major portion of the 997.11-acre plot remains uncultivated. Weeds run wild and cattle graze on large swathes.The TMC government had promised to make the land cultivable but it did not work. In 2016, after Mamata handed over the land to farmers, the first spell of rain washed away most of the topsoil, exposing the remains of concrete structures.

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Tata Motors pulled the plug on the Nano manufacturing plant in 2008. Mamata was at the forefront of the stir against land acquisition by the erstwhile Left Front government for the car plant in 2006. The stir helped Trinamool overpower the CPM in Hooghly district, sweeping all panchayat, Assembly and LS polls since 2008 by promising farmers return of all acquired Singur land and make it ready for cultivation. Didi kept her first promise but not the second one. It paved the way for the BJP in Hooghly. Farmers known to be CPM supporters switched sides.

“I was among those who were against the Tata project. The CM returned my land in 2016 and I was told the government would help me get my plot ready for cultivation. But I could not farm because of concrete structures under the soil. I sacrificed the compensation package offered by the CPM government and refused a job offer from Tata Motors. Now, I realise my mistake. We want industry on the land now,” said Amar Santra, a resident of Khasherbheri village that was the epicentre of the agitation. Santra did not hesitate to say he will vote for the BJP this time.

Samit Ghosh, now in his early 30s, was 22-years-old when he was selected for a job in Tata’s Singur unit. “I was one of the 267 local residents selected by Tata Motors. I did the training first at the Singur plant and later in Pune. My dream was shattered when Tata Motors decided to pull out,’’ he said.

Singur’s political narrative had a remarkable impact in the last LS elections in Hooghly. A movement that drove out Tata Motors and a promise that failed to heal Singur pain helped the BJP make significant inroads in 2014 LS polls. The BJP vote share increased from 3.42% in 2009 to 16.4%. The CPM suffered a 10.84% dent in its vote bank in 2014.

Trinamool’s internal conflict is another issue the BJP is banking on. Singur MLA Rabindranath Bhattacharya had resigned in 2012 because of his conflict with Becharam Manna, the MLA from Haripal Assembly constituency. Bhattacharya withdrew his resignation after he was offered a chair in Mamata’s cabinet. This time, the BJP has fielded actress-turned-politician Locket Chatterjee from Hooghly Lok Sabha constituency to take on Trinamool’s Ratna De.

The flames of the ruling party’s internal conflict also damaged Trinamool’s vote bank in adjoining Arambagh constituency. The BJP is confident of making forays into Trinamool’s strongholds here too. It is here that rival factions of the Trinamool attacked each other on July 21 last year. “The CPM, which once enjoyed absolute dominance in the area is not our rival. We are fighting our own colleagues,’’ said a TMC Arambagh leader. 

“There was a sharp decline in CPM’s vote bank in 2014 Lok Sabha polls with its vote share dipping by 25.29%. Most of them supported the Trinamool. But a large chunk of electors are waiting for an alternative political force and they have identified the BJP as their choice,’’ said Tapan Roy, the saffron candidate from Arambagh. Roy will take on Trinamool’s Aparuba Poddar.

Serampore constituency in Hooghly is all set to witness a tough electoral battle on May 6 as BJP’s Debjit Sarkar takes on Kalyan Mukherjee. BJP hopes for anti-incumbency to play a part. It is here that the BJP increased its vote share by 18.74% while Trinamool suffered a dent of 12.78% in 2014.

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