Katwa, Sept. 15: Katwa is facing an election tomorrow, but people would be forgiven for thinking Singur is.
Campaigning in Katwa town on Tuesday, Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee declared: “We will not let the government snatch an inch of agricultural land in Singur. The CPM is trying to starve farmers in the name of industrialisation.”
In the same place on the same day, industries minister Nirupam Sen said: “Don’t get swayed by Trinamul. It is an irresponsible party that is against any kind of industrialisation and development. They do not understand that if the Tata project comes up in Singur, plenty of people will get jobs.”
Katwa’s residents can’t for their life understand the fuss about Singur, 80 km away.
“The CPM wants land for industrialisation in Singur and Trinamul and the Congress want to resist it. How does it concern us' I will not get a job in the Tata factory. My little agricultural plot has been gobbled up by the river. I am being forced to sell vegetables,” said Rafikul Islam of Agradeep.
Two issues are on top of the minds of the people in Katwa, about 170 km from Calcutta: acquisition of farmland for a 1,000-mw power plant and erosion along the Bhagirathi.
“We also have a land acquisition problem here. The government plans to set up the power plant on 1,000 acres of multi-crop land. But the ruling party and the Opposition are only bothered about Singur,” said Sultan Alam, a farmer from Kadampukur, one of the areas earmarked for the plant.
Alam is a leader of the Krishi Krishak O Khetmajoor Banchao (save farming and farm workers) Committee, set up to resist the land acquisition.
Erosion is as important an issue for farmers like Rafikul, Samiran Pal of Purbasthali and Sadhan Gorai of Kalna. Even the rail tracks at Kalna, Agradeep, Patuli, Jaluidanga and Katwa are threatened.
The constituency consists of the Katwa, Kalna, Purbasthali, Nadanghat and Monteswar Assembly segments in Burdwan and Pandua and Balagarh in Hooghly. Five are held by the CPM and one each by Trinamul and the Congress.
For three decades, the CPM has held the seat, which fell vacant on MP Mehboob Zahedi’s death. Abu Ayesh Mondal, a former MLA, is the party’s nominee this time. “We are the only choice before the villagers. I’m not worried about my victory but the margin.”
In 2004, Zahedi had defeated Trinamul’s Sultan Ahmed by 165,000 votes in a triangular contest. This time it is a straight fight between Mondal and Trinamul’s Susanta Ghosh, with the Congress opting out.