Back to 'Nandigram'

The campaign for the second phase of polls in Bengal ended on March 30 while bringing to the fore many unpleasant facts that contestants from major parties-Trinamul Congress (TMC) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and CPM as well would like to forget. The battle ground is 'Nandigram', with chief minister Mamata Banerjee pitted against the TMC turncoat and Banerjee's former trusted lieutenant Subhendu Adhikari. The BJP stalwarts think they could capture Bengal simply by defeating Banerjee in Nandigram that once hit the headlines, both nationally and internationally, for the historic mass movement against the forcible farm- land acquisition by the CPM-led Left Front government .The agrarian constituency of Nandigram in east Midnapore district shook the very base of the three and half-decade-old left rule, rather misrule, in West Bengal. The BJP is so keen on defeating Mamata Banerjee that it brought Home Minister, Amit Shah and most of their national leaders for campaigning in Nandigram, which makes it, appear as if Shah, not Adhikari is the candidate. What is more, Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his recent visit to Bangladesh tried to utilise the occasion to influence a section of Bengal voters, voters belonging to a particular sect, by going to a place of worship of Matua community.

In 2007, the first mass upsurge against the CPM -led left front government's massive repression against illegal and unjust land grabbing took place in January, and then the Adhikaris wrested control of the rapidly changing political equation in the region. In March, the almost genocidal police action of a so-called Marxist government, killing 14 innocent persons triggered protests across the state, culminating in a full-scale Bengal Bandh. More than an electoral fight the battle for Nandigram has turned into one for the political survival of parties in the fray. The Nandigram land agitation by the small and marginal peasants in 2007 changed Bengal's political landscape to a great extent and ''mighty 'CPM became irrelevant overnight and lost power within a few years. The Adhikaris being firmly entrenched in the area with huge mass discontent against the ruling left by then, thanks to their money power and political clout, it was difficult for the policemen to enter the localities otherwise barricaded by villagers, without their knowledge. After 14 years Mamata Banerjee has raised the issue in a different context with a lot of twists and blamed it on the Adhikari family for the entry of the police and its consequences. But even if her allegation is true, it is obvious that she was not uninformed of the tragic situation in which the Adhikaris were willingly or unwillingly involved. Then what prevented her from disclosing the bitter truth earlier? On the other hand, the Adhikaris by no means secured the 'envious' position they did in the party hierarchy and government, without the overt and covert support of Mamata Banerjee. Caught in a cross fire she faces a dilemma as to how to destroy the Adhikari family without jeopardising her own image.

For one thing the election manifesto released by Amit Shah contains a large number of promises, most of which are seemingly empty. Ironically, it is at worst an extended version of Mamata Banerjee's populist schemes. The BJP's tall talks as scripted in their poll manifesto run counter to the policies by the Centre and all BJP-ruled states.

Given the stature of state BJP leaders, it is quite likely that they will always cower before the Modi's central government on every issue even if it goes against the interests of the people of the state.

The BJP is solely interested in promoting its politics of Hindutva. They interpret everything through the prism of Hindu religion while continually polarising the society on communal lines. Nandigram that attracted international attention during the anti-land grab movement in 2007 narrowly avoided a communal riot on April 1 when both TMC and BJP tried to influence voters in their own way .Banerjee had stormed to power in the state in 2011 riding on the Singur and Nandigram movements .Many in TMC began to believe that Adhikari being very close to Banerjee would be the logical heir-apparent. No, that didn't happen. The ground reality was something else. And the internal contradiction in TMC sharpened, leading to a vertical split-in truth it was a split within split---making the path smooth for the spread of saffronites. The battle for Nandigram is not yet over but it has assumed the proportions of a personal fight to decide who owns the legacy of the Nandigram land movement-Banerjee or Adhikari. Instead of a rational land campaign what now dominates the political scenario in this part of the globe is 'Hindutva euphoria' and BJP brand of divisive politics.

West Bengal, a state of 92 million people, has never been ruled by Mod's party-Bharatiya Janata Party. The fact is that the TMC being a loosely structured and authoritarian party without any ideological underpinnings finds it difficult to take on Modi's Hindu nationalist party. All regional parties have the same problem as they mostly rely on personality cult of a charismatic leader but mere personality cult is no answer to a well organised fascist outfit that controls the Centre. 'If the BJP wins, Hindu majoritarian politics will have finally arrived in Bengal'. Also, a win for a 'Hindu nationalist party' in a state where a third of the voters are Muslims will be hugely symbolic and the so-called secular Opposition may fail to face the challenge of Mr Modi's well-oiled and richly funded party in 2024 general elections, notwithstanding unpopular and anti- people economic policies of the Modi dispensation.        


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Vol. 53, No. 42, Apr 18 - 24, 2021