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April 28, 2024

Singur Saga: Lost Opportunity for Tata Car Plant Dominates Hooghly Poll Narrative

The specter of the lost opportunity for industrialization still looms large over Singur, as the Hooghly Lok Sabha constituency gears up for the upcoming elections. Sixteen years after the infamous anti-land acquisition movement drove Tata Nano car plant away from Singur, the promise of industrial revival remains a central issue for the region.

Back in 2006-2007, Hooghly district, particularly Singur, gained national attention due to the vehement protests against the Left Front government’s land acquisition policies. The movement, led by Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC), eventually led to the downfall of the ruling regime and propelled TMC to power in the state.

Today, with two cine stars contesting on TMC and BJP tickets, the debate over industrialization has taken center stage once again. Mamata Banerjee has fielded Rachana Banerjee, a popular television host, against the incumbent BJP MP, Locket Chatterjee. Both parties pledge to revive industry in the region, each with their own vision and strategy.

Chatterjee, representing the BJP, has made a bold promise to bring back the Tatas to Singur if elected. This assertion is part of the BJP’s larger narrative of development and industrial growth in West Bengal. They anticipate a comprehensive victory in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, aiming to surpass their 2019 tally of 18 seats and dismantle the TMC government.

On the other hand, TMC maintains that their opposition was never against industry per se, but against forcible land acquisition. Kunal Ghosh, a TMC leader, asserts that their government has made significant efforts to attract industries to the state over the past 12 years.

The saga of Singur began when Tata Motors chose the region for its small car manufacturing unit in 2006. However, the acquisition of 997.11 acres of land led to a fierce resistance, culminating in the eventual relocation of the plant to Gujarat. Mamata Banerjee’s hunger strike for 26 days marked the peak of the protests, demanding the return of land allegedly acquired by force.

Despite legal battles and political negotiations, no resolution was reached until the Mamata Banerjee-led government passed the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Bill in 2011. However, the return of land to unwilling farmers in 2016 did not fully restore agricultural viability to the region.

The CPI (M) blames the TMC for the failure to utilize the land effectively, turning fertile farmlands into barren plots. Monodip Ghosh, the CPI (M) candidate, accuses the ruling party of indulging in “dirty politics” at the cost of both industrialization and agriculture.

The consequences are dire for the farmers of Singur, as the land remains uncultivable with concrete structures and remnants of the failed industrial project. It would require extensive and expensive efforts to make the land fertile again, a burden the farmers cannot bear.

As the election campaign intensifies, both TMC and BJP are vying for the support of Singur’s electorate, with industrialization and land issues at the forefront. Political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty predicts that the outcome will hinge on how each party can leverage this critical issue.

Historically, Singur was a stronghold of the CPI (M) until the Tata Nano controversy shifted the political landscape. Since then, TMC has won the seat in both parliamentary and assembly elections, though BJP made significant inroads in 2019.

The constituency, with its diverse demographic makeup, poses unique challenges and opportunities for political parties. Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Muslim voters play a crucial role, alongside the predominantly rural electorate.

As the election date approaches, Singur’s lost opportunity for industrialization remains a poignant reminder of past struggles and future aspirations, shaping the narrative of the Hooghly Lok Sabha constituency.

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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