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A New Rival in an All-Too-Familiar Place: This is Why TMC Can’t Afford to Ignore Tamluk’s Nandigram

Falling under the Tamluk constituency, Nandigram has especially been significant as the farmer's agitation in 2009 became a watershed moment in TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee's political career.

Sujit Nath | News18

Updated:May 10, 2019, 11:10 PM IST
A New Rival in an All-Too-Familiar Place: This is Why TMC Can’t Afford to Ignore Tamluk’s Nandigram
File photo of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

Nandigram (East Midnapore): Bloodshed and mayhem marked that fateful night in January 2007 with heavy firing exchanges between an armed group of farmers and CPI(M) cadres across the Sonachura canal bridge.

Sankar Samanta, a farmer, was dragged outside his house and set on fire allegedly by CPI (M) cadres, while his friend Sheikh Salim's was shot multiple times.

The Trinamool Congress (TMC) backed farmers were ready to lay their lives to save their lands from being acquired by Indonesia’s Salim Group, who was planning to set up a Special Economic Zone. TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee took little time to make the issue her political raison d’etre.

She stood beside the agitated farmers and gave a call to intensify the movement when 14 farmers were killed in police firing in Nandigram on March 14, 2007.

A year later the CPI (M) handed ‘Singur’ to her on a platter. Since then there was no looking back for ‘Didi’ as she successfully managed to wrest the ‘Writers’ Buildings’ (secretariat building of the West Bengal State government) from 34-years of Left rule in 2011.

Nandigram, however, remains a watershed moment in Mamata’s political career.

Twelve years on, Nandigram, which falls under Tamluk Lok Sabha constituency, now returns to haunt the ruling party as its villagers are crying for basic amenities and infrastructure.

“So many people were killed but in the end, nothing much has happened here. This place still lacks basic amenities. lack of drinking water, health and education facilities are some of the issues which have been ignored over the years. We hardly see leaders standing beside us. They will only come to us with folded hands during election time to beg for votes,” Mohammad Ansar, a resident of Gorchakraberia said.

Tamluk was a CPI (M) bastion but the events in Nandigram and Singur helped TMC’s Suvendu Adhikari, who galvanized the movement, to beat CPI (M) heavyweight Lakshman Chandra Seth in the 2009 Lok Sabha election by 173,958 votes.

In 2014, Suvendhu once again won against a new opponent – CPI(M)’s Sekh Ibrahim Ali. In 2016, he resigned after winning the West Bengal Assembly poll from Nandigram and became a state minister. His younger brother Dibyendu Adhikari contested the consequent by-poll and won against CPI (M)’s Mandira Panda.

Dibyendu is once again representing TMC for the seat. He is contesting against former MP Lakshman Chandra Seth of the Congress, CPI-M’s Sekh Ibrahim Ali and BJP’s Siddharth Naskar.

Suvendhu and Dibyendu are the sons of Sisir Kumar Adhikari, the TMC MP from Contai and a former Union Minister of Rural Development in the Manmohan Singh government.

This time, the BJP’s significant inroads in Tamluk as well nearby Contai might prove as a threat to the Adhikaris. In 2009, BJP had received 1.79 per cent votes in Tamluk. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, this figure shot up to 6.4 per cent. Then in the 2016 by polls, it further increased to 15.06 per cent.

Nandigram among the constituency’s seven assembly segments, which also includes, Tamluk, Haldia, East Panskura, Mahisadal, Moyna and Nandakumar.

Voting in Tamluk will be held on May 12 during the sixth round of the seventh-phase Lok Sabha election in Bengal.

Besides Tamluk - Contai, Ghatal, Jhargram, Midnapore, Purulia, Bankura and Bishnupur will also go to polls on May 12. The result will be declared on May 23.

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