New Delhi, Aug. 7: How long will “you continue to be cheated at the hands of these politicians,” asks the persistent voice on the radio. “How long will you bear it? Say ‘Enough’.”
At first the line, being repeated during every ad break by the Delhi-based 92.7 Big FM channel, sounds like yet another Team Anna slogan. But the next line surprises you and arouses your interest.
“Join Haryana Trinamul Congress…. Join TMC,” it says.
Yes, Mamata Banerjee’s party is trying to expand into north India — under the leadership of its billionaire MP Kanwar Deep Singh, better known as K.D. Singh. Mamata has put him in charge of the party’s north India affairs.
Singh, chairman of the Rs 10,000-crore Alchemist group, is a Rajya Sabha member from Jharkhand. He switched to Trinamul after being elected with the support of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha MLAs.
His company has interests in health care, food processing, steel, pharmaceuticals, hospitality, retail, restaurants and real estate. The group owns the retail chain Republic of Chicken.
Under Singh’s leadership, Trinamul has begun an advertisement and recruitment blitz to make a mark in Haryana as well as Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. It suits both Trinamul and Singh that he hails from Haryana.
“I am just a soldier of Mamata Banerjee. I have been assigned the task of raising the party in north India and am doing it dutifully, carrying Mamataji’s message of Maa, Mati, Manush to every village,” Singh told The Telegraph.
He said he had chosen 92.7 Big FM because it was popular across large swathes of Haryana.
Singh seems to have opened his purse strings to help the party’s cause. Last month, railway minister Mukul Roy inaugurated a plush party office in Sector 26 of Chandigarh.
The two-storey, wood-panelled and centrally air-conditioned office, whose monthly rent is said to be Rs 3.5 lakh, will serve as the party’s north India base. Trinamul offices are also being opened in district headquarters in Himachal and Punjab.
Singh had earlier been in charge of Trinamul’s Northeast affairs and can claim credit for the party’s success in Manipur. He said Trinamul would contest all the Assembly seats in Himachal (which goes to the polls at the end of this year) and Haryana (2014).
A membership drive has been launched in these two states with the goal of enrolling four lakh in each by September, Singh said. The MP himself is travelling across Haryana, addressing public meetings and lashing out at the state’s Congress government.
Apart from striving to catch people’s attention through the mass media, Singh has latched on to the anti-land acquisition plank, which propelled Mamata to power in Bengal.
With Haryana getting urbanised in a big way because of its proximity to Delhi, land acquisition has become a serious issue in the state.
“Farmers at many places in Haryana are agitating to save their land,” he said. “Agitations are on in Gorakhpur (in Fatehabad, Haryana), Sonepat and Rewari. The Haryana government is trying to forcibly acquire fertile land. Mamataji has emerged as the saviour of farmers across the country.”
As a start, Singh is championing the cause of the farmers of Gorakhpur village, who have for two years been protesting against a nuclear power project on their land. Three farmers have died in the agitation.
Recently, Singh visited the village and donated Rs 2 lakh to the family of each of the dead apart from promising them a job in his company.
“Our leader Mamata Banerjee’s slogan is ‘Maa, Mati, Manush’. We will not allow acquisition of fertile land for the establishment of a power plant that is hazardous,” he said.
The Gorakhpur agitation seems to be drawing other aspiring politicians too. Former army chief V.K. Singh, who is from Haryana, has visited the village and expressed solidarity with the farmers. He has not ruled out joining politics if “the people” want him to.
Singh is aiming bigger. He seems to be projecting himself as the face of the party in Haryana and as a possible chief ministerial candidate.
“Will you continue to cook in the same pot? Vote for K.D. Singh, our own son of the soil. Join Trinamul Congress,” one of the radio ads says.
Singh has already notched a small success. Sunder Pal Singh, former media adviser to Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, has joined Trinamul and been appointed Singh’s deputy.
Mamata’s north India ambitions have been fuelled by the victory of her candidate in the Mant Assembly by-election (near Mathura) in June, which allowed Trinamul to open its account in Uttar Pradesh. Although the victory owed mainly to candidate Shyam Sundar Sharma’s personal popularity, Trinamul is seeking to make the most of it.