Polls, in land war shadow

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  • Published 27.05.07

May 26: Five municipalities and 500-odd panchayat seats are going to polls tomorrow in what many believe could be a referendum on the government’s land acquisition policy.

Of the five, the CPM controlled Panskura municipality in East Midnapore is closest to Nandigram, about 80 km away.

Both Buddhadeb Bhatta- charjee and Mamata Banerjee addressed rallies here, and Nandigram, needless to say, overshadowed local issues.

The Trinamul Congress has only three of the 17 seats in the civic body but the party is pinning hopes on the advantage Mamata has been able to extract from the Nandigram violence. The CPM has a point to prove: its stranglehold has not become loose beyond the actual land war zone.

“Nandigram will be uppermost in the minds of voters tomorrow. We’ve told them how CPM cadres launched a barbaric attack on innocent villagers in Nandigram with the help of police,” said Suvendu Adhikary, Trinamul’s chief campaigner and MLA.

Amiya Sahu, a CPM district committee member, tried to downplay Adhikary’s plank. “We worked hard to improve the quality of life and the people will vote for us.”

In steel town Durgapur, Nandigram was not so much of an issue but industrialisation and land acquisition were.

The Left holds 41 seats of the 43 in the local municipal corporation. But as in Panskura, Trinamul, Congress and the BJP have ensured a straight fight with front candidates.

Shopping malls, smooth roads and luxury apartments have changed the face of Durgapur, said CPM’s Burdwan secretary Amal Haldar. “Investors are queuing up, and that is our campaign plank.”

In Birbhum’s Nalhati and Nadia’s Cooper’s Camp — held by the Congress — civic issues dominated campaign, but they were not without references to what has been happening elsewhere in the state.

In Nalhati, the Congress has to fight Trinamul in each of the 16 seats.

North Bengal’s Dhupguri will see a direct fight between the front and the Opposition, but dislodging the ruling coalition could be a tall order — the front now has 14 of its 16 seats.