Singur constituency, which will be seeing a triangular contest among the TMC, BJP and CPM candidates, is once again witnessing the resurrection of the industrialisation plank, having lost the Tata Nano project a few years ago. The lack of industrialisation, economic growth and joblessness in this constituency have been turned into convenient poll planks by the BJP and CPM candidates to appeal to the voters here, especially the youth.
But the main fight is likely to be between former TMC stalwart and BJP candidate octogenarian leader Rabindranath Bhattacharya and TMC heavyweight leader Becharam Manna, once a grassroots activist of the Singur movement.
Infact, Bhattacharya, popularly called ‘Mastermoshai’, who had always been a strong force fighting against the land acquisition during the Singur movement during his days in the TMC, is now highlighting the industrialisation card. Bhattacharya promises to work in line with BJP’s manifesto which includes a detailed plan for the industrial growth of Bengal. The BJP promises to set up several industrial hubs and parks, including an Auto Industry Park, the setting up of a Sonar Bangla Revival Task Force, giving a boost to the MSME sectors and making Bengal among the top three states in the Ease of Doing Business ranking.
The BJP seems to have struck the right chord with the people as economic growth and industrialisation are what the people of Singur are looking forward to –– a theme being also played up by the CPM candidate.
There has hardly been any economic activity in Singur in the past ten years, which could have seen some development had the Tata’s Nano car factory started in 2008. This has led to a sense of disillusionment among the youth of Hooghly district.
“We want industry and employment in Singur. You can see local youth playing caroms and cards here and there. They have no employment,” said a local villager. And the farmers continue to remain poor.
“We expect Rabindranath Bhattacharya to work hard for the region’s development. He had led the people from the front and fought for the people,” said Mahadeb Das, a Singur resident.
“We are really confused who to choose. Manna is also a product of the Singur movement and a son of the soil. On the other hand, Mastermoshai has always stood by us,” said another voter.
CPM CHIPPING AT BJP, TMC VOTES
With 27-year-old first-timer Srijan Bhattacharya, SFI state secretary, contesting on the CPM ticket, the vote share of the BJP and TMC is likely to get split.
Political experts believe the Left Front-CPI-M and ISF combine will eat into the minority votes of the area, which make up approximately 12%. However, the majority Hindu vote will get divided between the BJP and TMC.
The CPM is also focussing on the need for industrialisation, with Srijan saying: “We are talking about livelihood issues, employment and industrialisation, telling people that CPM will take cautious decisions about land acquisition depending on consensus”.
The CPM candidate claims that they have been receiving positive response from the people who are disappointed by the TMC rule as top leaders of the Singur movement have become rich and powerful, like Becharam Manna (whose wife is also in the fray from Haripal in Hooghly).
The CPM-led Left Front government, which had lost the 2011 Bengal assembly polls due to the Singur movement, is now cautious when it talks about industrialisation and land acquisition issues.
Becharam Manna of the TMC, now a minister and who was once a grassroots-level worker, says he is happy with the development work and social welfare schemes like Kanyasree, Swasthya Sathi and other schemes to empower the rural population, the ration for the poor and Duare Sarkar, a facility to bring government services at doorstep. Road infrastructure is better in the villages as well.
“Mamata Banerjee has returned the land to farmers and they have started farming the land,” said a TMC leader, optimistic about their victory in Singur.
It may be recalled that in a historical verdict, the Supreme Court had in 2016 directed that land be returned to farmers within 12 weeks as the land acquisition process in Singur was faulty and not meant for public purposes.
Mamata Banerjee had steered the political opposition against the land acquisition process of the then Left Front government in Bengal and had forced the Tatas to abandon the project in 2008.