Singur voices support for rebel TMC minister

Singur, Nov. 25 -- The saviour of Singur has turned evil. Overnight. "She is not a good person," 80-year-old Bhudeb Das, one of the staunch anti-acquisition activists in Khaser Veri, the Singur village that served as the epicentre of the anti-acquisition movement, said while proceeding towards this correspondent with feeble steps. The reference was, obviously, chief minister Mamata Banerjee, once the dearest politician to the antiacquisition activists.

Das entered the scene when 72-year-old Sital Das and 45-year-old Pradip Das, both of them prominent anti-acquisition activists, were already lambasting Mamata over her decision to shift Singur MLA and agriculture minister Rabindranath Bhattacharjee to lesser important statistics and implementation department, a charge that Bhattacharjee refused.

The inclusion of Becharam Manna, another key anti-acquisition leader and MLA from neighbouring Haripal constituency, as minister of state in the agriculture department, has not been able to cheer up the locals.

"If she were a good person, she would not have harassed this old man in such manner. He stood by us, and also by her, in the toughest times. He was 75 years old, yet he went on hunger strike and led our resistance on the fields from the front," Bhudeb Das said.

Bhattacharjee, who would turn 80 on Monday, is the longest serving Trinamool MLA from Hooghly district. He won in 2001 and even in 2006, when Trinamool had only 30 MLAs in the state.

Perhaps, local Trinamool leadership, too, has sensed trouble and is trying to ensure that Bhattacharjee does not resign as an MLA. Hooghly MP Ratna De Nag visited Bhattacharjee's home on Saturday evening. Later Manna along with the members of Singur block Trinamool, visited Bhattacharjee's home.

The retired schoolteacher, popularly known as Mastermoshai, however, has not given any word to any of them. He skipped the Singur block Trinamool's meeting on Saturday evening.

"The agenda of the meeting is organisational issues. It was manageable without me," Bhattacharjee said. "At my home the workers tried to convince me that I should change my decision of not joining the new ministry but my decision remains the same. I've tried to explain them my grounds."

In the villages, there was no lack of sympathy for Bhattacharjee. "I can bet on it that very few Trinamool MLAs have a cleaner image than him," said Deepali Das, a homemaker at Beraberi Purbapara. She spent four days in jail after police arrested her from the Singur BDO office compound in the midnight of September 25, 2006, for participating in a Mamata-led gherao.

Asked what Mamata could have done if Bhattacharjee was failing in his job, Das said that the chief minister should have inducted a young leader as minister of state to help ageing Bhattacharjee. "Despite being an MLA for more than a decade, Bhattacharjee remained the same down-to-earth person. He did not deserve such a humiliation," Shyamali Das, who along with her husband spent seven days in jail for resisting the police in taking possession of their land, on December 2, 2006, said. Das was such a fan of the Trinamool Congress chief that, in 2009, she had named her grandson as Poriborton. But now, the word has a bitter taste for her.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.