Years after Tata agitation, Mamata Banerjee faces battle in Singur
In 2008, Singur became the hotbed of West Bengal politics after Mamata Banerjee led an agitation against Tata Motors, which catapulted her to national politics. Now more than a decade later, CM Mamata is facing a stiff battle in the area. Singur went into polls on Monday and BJP is hoping to topple her rule, banking on farmers' distress. Here's the history behind Singur.
In 2008, Tata chief Ratan Tata met former Bengal CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, and was forced to move Tata Nano plant out of the state. Bengal's loss became Gujarat's gain as the then CM Narendra Modi opened his arms for the opportunity. It was Mamata's agitation, in which she had the support of farmers, which drove Tata away from Bengal and ended Left's 34-year-long rule.
Mamata portrayed Tatas as evil forces on a mission to grab land from poor farmers. She fanned emotions and farmers saw a great leader in her. Three years after the agitation, which also included a hunger strike, Mamata became the CM. In 2016, the land was returned to farmers. But now that years have passed, the farmers know the agitation didn't yield any results.
Only 30% of the total of 997 acres of land is cultivable. The land where Tata Motors set up their plant has largely remained barren. A farmer named Ashok Maity told PTI they were used for political gains. "Neither industries came up nor the land which was returned to us in 2016 was cultivable. We are living in abject poverty," he added.
Since the plant was built with concrete pillars and slabs, nearly seven to eight inches of topsoil will have to be removed to make the land cultivable. This is an expensive process and if farmers decide to wait, their land will be cultivable after 10 years. Some farmers opined that it would have been better if Singur would have turned into an industrial hub.
"We made a mistake by getting swayed by the political frenzy over land acquisition. Had we given our land just like the 'willing' farmers, Singur would have turned into an industrial hub and it would have created jobs," farmer Sukanta Mondal told PTI.
Now, Mamata is facing fierce competition in the very area which made her popular. Singur is one of the constituencies of Hooghly Lok Sabha seat, which has a large BJP presence. Trinamool has fielded Ratna De Nag and BJP has given a ticket to Locket Chatterjee from there. Separately, CPI(M)'s Pradip Saha and Congress' Pratul Chandra Saha could also make the battle interesting.
BJP state president Dilip Ghosh is confident the Singur agitation will return to haunt Mamata. "You go to any village in Singur...the farmers are angry there. They are feeling cheated by the TMC," he said. But will the anger translate to votes? The answer will be known on May 23. Meanwhile, life seems to have come full circle for Mamata Didi!