12 Years After Mamata’s Watershed Moment, Will Nandigram Go With Didi Again?

The West Bengal chief minister met the family members of a Trinamool Congress candidate who was shot dead by bike-borne assailants on June 4 in North 24 Parganas.

Nandigram (West Bengal): If, as she wishes, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee comes to occupy the PM’s chair in the near future, a montage of her tumultuous political journey would surely feature Nandigram.

The watershed moment in Mamata Banerjee’s political career started one dark night on January 2007 when a group of armed farmers traded fire with CPI(M) cadre across the Sonachura canal bridge.

The CPM cadre allegedly dragged a farmed named Sankar Samanta out of his house and set him ablaze, while pumping several bullets into his friend Sheikh Salim.

Backed by the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the farmers were ready to lay down their lives to keep their lands from being acquired by Indonesia’s Salim Group, which was planning to set up a Special Economic Zone in the area. Mamata Banerjee lost no time in making it the crux of her most triumphant period in politics.

She called upon the farmers to intensify their movement. On March 14 that year, 14 of those farmers were killed in police firing in Nandigram. A year later, the CPM handed Singur to her on a platter. There was no looking back for Banerjee, fondly called ‘Didi’, after that. Ending 34 years of Left rule in West Bengal, she stormed the Writers’ Buildings in 2011.

Almost a decade after Banerjee’s Nandigram moment, the census town, which comes under Tamluk Lok Sabha constituency, is again disgruntled with the ruling party, which happens to be the TMC this time.

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

Tamluk was a Left bastion but the events in Nandigram and Singur helped Trinamool’s Suvendu Adhikari beat CPM heavyweight Lakshman Chandra Seth in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

In 2014, Suvendhu won again against a new opponent, CPM’s Sekh Ibrahim Ali. He resigned in 2016 after winning the assembly election from Nandigram and became a state minister. His younger brother, Dibyendu Adhikari, contested the Lok Sabha bypoll and won against CPM’s Mandira Panda.

The Trinamool gave the ticket to Dibyendu this time as well and he contested against former MP Lakshman Chandra Seth of the Congress, CPM’s Sekh Ibrahim Ali and BJP’s Siddharth Naskar.

Suvendhu and Dibyendu are the sons of Sisir Kumar Adhikari, the Trinamool Congress MP from Contai who was also part of the Manmohan Singh government as the rural development minister.

The Adhikaris this time face a challenge from the BJP which has made significant inroads in Tamluk as well nearby Contai. In 2009, the BJP had received 1.79 per cent votes in Tamluk. This shot up to 6.4 per cent in the 2014 elections. It increased to 15.06 per cent in the 2016 bypolls.

Apart from the Nandigram assembly seat, the Lok Sabha constituency also comprises the assembly segments of Tamluk, Haldia, East Panskura, Mahisadal, Moyna and Nandakumar.