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Last Updated : Jun 14, 2019 12:56 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Singur reindustrialisation: Can BJP pay Mamata Banerjee back in her own coin?

It was Singur that once scripted Mamata Banerjee’s path to glory

Sounak Mukherjee @_maqtub
Image: Reuters/Jayanta Shaw
Image: Reuters/Jayanta Shaw

What goes around comes around — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in West Bengal is playing the Singur card against CM Mamata Banerjee. After 11 years of the TATA Nano controversy, Singur is still a key factor in the political sphere in West Bengal.

Banerjee, the-then leader of the opposition in Bengal, accused the Left Front government of illegal and forceful land acquisition from farmers. She went on a 25-day hunger strike to shut down the TATA Nano factory in the census town in Hooghly. Her movement was fuelled by top intellectuals in the state, who went strongly against the government’s decision.

Banerjee’s demonstration played a massive role as the political unrest forced TATA to withdraw its project. Moreover, the movement played a crucial role in her political career as she managed to topple the “invincible” Left in the following state elections.

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Narendra Modi came into the picture soon after TATA’s exit from Bengal. The-then chief minister of Gujarat famously sent a one-word text message to Ratan Tata's mobile phone – “Suswagatham” – to welcome him to start his factory in the state. Tata did accept the invitation and opened the factory in Sanand in Ahmedabad.

Today, the Singur issue is relevant because, according to the BJP, Banerjee had failed to keep her promise to convert the 997 acres into cultivable land. Kisan Morcha, the farmer wing of the saffron party, aims to organise a mass movement to force the Trinamool government into handing over the unused land to set up an industry.

Also Read: Political Pulse | Mamata Banerjee stands morally defeated but the BJP is reluctant to seize power

“The farmers lost their land and the opportunity of having industry in their area as well," The New Indian Expressed quoted Ramakrishna Pal, the West Bengal president of the Kisan Morcha, as saying.

Banerjee offered Rs 2,000 and 16 kg rice for farmers when she legally returned the land to them. However, not everyone agrees on her ideas for development. “We don’t want to live on dole forever and would rather have the industrialisation dreams revived,” The Times of India quoted one of the farmers as saying.

The TMC lost its Singur (Hooghly) seat in the general elections 2019. Banerjee considered the defeat a “personal blow for her” as she called it “a matter of great shame”, The Telegraph reported. The constituency, which once scripted her path to glory, was hers no more.

Locket Chatterjee, the newly-elected BJP MP who has been one of the strongest voices in favour of bringing TATA back to Bengal, is scheduled to visit Singur on June 14. In a meeting which Chatterjee claims to be “apolitical”, she will reportedly listen to farmers’ woes.

According to BJP leader Sanjay Pandey, the state suffered heavy losses after TATA’s exit. “Everyone will benefit if our MP initiates the reindustrialisation in Singur,” Bengali newspaper Ananda Bazar Patrika quoted him as saying.

Also Read: Did Mamata Banerjee underestimate the saffron sentiment?

Mukul Roy, once Banerjee’s “right-hand man”, was a prominent part of the TMC’s Singur movement. Roy, currently in the BJP, now considers the movement a “mistake”.

"It neither served the purpose of industry nor agriculture," NDTV quoted Roy as saying. "The farmers are now suffering as the land there cannot be used for agricultural purposes."

In Lok Sabha elections 2019, the BJP’s performance in Bengal was massive. While it had secured just two seats with 10.2 percent vote share in 2014, it emerged victorious in 18 out of 42 seats this time with 40.5 percent vote share.

It was Singur that helped Banerjee form the government in 2011. Only time will tell if the BJP can ride on the issue to turn the tide against her in 2021.

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First Published on Jun 14, 2019 12:56 pm
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