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'Surprised' CPM swears by industry Finger at farmer fear & front rift

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  • Published 22.05.08

Calcutta, May 21: The CPM today said it had no inkling that it would lose the whole of East Midnapore and South 24-Parganas, on the other bank of the Hooghly, despite the violence and resistance over land acquisition in Nandigram.

Neither was it prepared for a wafer-thin victory in North 24-Parganas, where resistance to land acquisition had been snowballing over the Salim Group’s expressway project nor for the sizeable erosion in its support base in five other districts in south Bengal.

“We were apprehensive about the outcome in North Dinajpur and confident of regaining Murshidabad. But we had no idea that we would lose East Midnapore and South 24-Parganas,’’ party state secretariat member Benoy Konar said.

However, he shrugged off the loss of three zilla parishad seats in Singur, saying they were part of a Trinamul stronghold that voted its candidate to victory in the 2006 Assembly polls.

Although the Left Front election manifesto had played down the row over industrialisation and land acquisition, Konar admitted that the farmers’ fear of losing land had taken its toll in East Midnapore and South 24-Parganas.

“It’s proved that our cadres had got alienated from farmers to some extent and failed to fathom their grievances and pain. The Opposition fanned the fear psychosis,’’ he added.

It was another matter that the CPM state committee had failed to “review” its Nandigram “mistakes”, as called for by the party’s central committee, or censure leaders like Lakhsman Seth for their strong-arm tactics.

The failure ended in the endorsement of the armed recapture of Nandigram by party cadres last November.

Nevertheless, Konar said the party would not go back on industrialisation. “We won’t budge from the path of industrialisation since it will be a betrayal of the people’s mandate. The people of South 24-Parganas and East Midnapore would later realise their folly and appreciate the need for industrialisation.”

If the CPM’s failure to convince voters about its intentions regarding industry led to its setback at some places, the acrimony among front partners like the Forward Bloc and the RSP over industrialisation and land acquisition resulted in the loss of North Dinajpur and South 24-Parganas.

The disunity, which came to the fore over Nandigram, became worse over seat-sharing, leading to mutual bloodletting in South 24-Parganas’ Basanti. “It was not the usual bickering over seats but the political difference among the allies that confused even a section of the Left voters,’’ Konar said.

The allies sounded happy today. “The CPM paid the price for forcibly acquiring land and for ignoring our words of caution. It’s to blame for the disunity among partners. We hope it will change it’s attitude now,’’ PWD minister and RSP leader Kshiti Goswami said.

CPM state secretariat member Madan Ghosh said the government’s land acquisition policy was not to blame, but the manner in which it was executed in Singur and Nandigram.

“The farmers’ apprehensions about losing their land overrode the dreams of industrialisation in some areas. Unlike in Singur and Nandigram, where there were shortcomings in taking people into confidence, we convinced and persuaded the residents of Raghu- nathpur in Purulia and other places in Bankura and Burdwan to part with their land. The acquisition was peaceful and we did well there,” Ghosh said.

A Trinamul victory procession in Singur. Picture by Pradip Sanyal

In Burdwan’s Salanpur, where Bhushan Steel has proposed a steel plant, in West Midnapore’s Salboni, where Jindal Steel is setting up its plant, and in Raghunathpur, where Jai Balaji and several other companies are investing, the CPM has done well.

“There was no impact of Nandigram or Singur on these places,’’ said Burdwan CPM secretary Amal Haldar.

In Burdwan, where Videocon and Abhijeet Group are setting up their projects and an airport is being built, the CPM has got absolute majority.

Shyam Pandey, the CPM’s Salboni zonal secretary, said: “We were with the people and convinced them about land acquisition. Also, the Jindals have offered an attractive compensation package.”

Manindra Gope, the party’s Purulia district secretariat member, echoed his comrades. “We spoke to the people about the need to acquire land for the steel project and they understood.”