Nandigram, West Bengal: The bloody protests of Nandigram and Singur are no longer a talking point in poll-bound West Bengal.
Yet, Nandigram is all decked up for the campaign, in the expectation that chief minister Mamata Banerjee might choose the rural constituency to contest the election.
Trinamool Congress workers are busy dusting the old walls of the constituency to fill them with campaign graffiti.
Nandigram’s profile also gets a lift from the BJP’s possible choice - sitting MLA Suvendu Adhikari, a former Mamata loyalist who recently crossed over to the BJP.
This nondescript farming community was catapulted to national spotlight in 2007 when farmers resisted the then Left Front government’s decision to acquire their land for setting up a special economic zone.
Two years later, the Trinamool Congress successfully capitalised on people’s rage, ending 30 years of Communist rule.
Ever since, Nandigram has been special for the Trinamool Congress and Mamata Banerjee. This time, she has already expressed her intent to contest from the constituency. She excited a large crowd who assembled to listen to her speech at Nandigram on January 18, when she revealed her plan.
She has not visited Nandigram after that. Nandigram in East Midnapore district goes to polls on April 1 in the second phase of elections.
Local Trinamool Congress activists are energised by their leader’s offer to contest from Nandigram.
“Didi - as Mamata Banerjee is affectionately called in West Bengal -- will win by a majority of more than 10,000 votes,” said party block president Swaraj Ranjan Das, while discussing the party’s prospects. His colleague Sheikh Amanulla was in agreement.
Nandigram does not look like a place where history was made. This is a typical agricultural village in West Bengal, peopled with toiling farmers and workers going about their work in the vast fields and bustling markets and narrow alleys flanked by modest houses.
Das and Amanulla insist that Mamata Banerjee has done so much for Nandigram in the last 10 years. Her administration has improved facilities in schools and hospitals, they said.
A banner hung over their heads in the party office: “Call didi”. It has a phone number too, something like a helpline for the people to air their grievances.
All the hustle and bustle in Nandigram naturally lead to the big question: Will Mamata Banerjee move away from her usual constituency, Bhabanipur in Kolkata? Does she intend to contest from both constituencies? “Those are things beyond our grasp. We are just humble workers of the party,” Amanulla said.
Even senior leaders are not opening up about their supremo’s intentions. Mamata Banerjee herself is yet to reveal her cards. The only clues were dropped at the Nandigram rally in January.
“I will never abandon Bhabanipur. There will be a good candidate to represent the party there. Bhabanipur is my elder sister and Nandigram my other sister. I will try to contest from both places,” she said at the rally. Chances are higher for her to contest from Nandigram alone.
Her announcement might have been a challenge to her former loyalist. She was enraged by Adhikari’s switchover to her rivals.
Trinamool Congress workers have already taken the cues. Ask them about their former leader and they suddenly lose all their enthusiasm, as if they were hearing the name for the first time.
“We hear that he is going to contest. They are yet to make a move here,” Das said, before reminding that Adhikari became an MLA only with Mamata Banerjee’s blessings.
Nandigram is filled with the flags of Trinamool Congress and the BJP. Prime minister Narendra Modi’s larger-than-life cut-outs dominate the landscape in some places. However, Trinamool Congress is the only party to boldly go ahead and claim the wall writings with their candidate’s name.
The party’s slogan – “Bangla nijer meyekai chay (Bengal needs its sister)” – resonates in the village of Nandigram as much as it does in Kolkata or the national highway 116. The slogan has changed since the violent days of 2007. “Maa, matti, manush (Mother, land and people)” was the slogan then.
Meanwhile in Kolkata, Trinamool Congress added some star power with the induction of Bengali movie actor Sayantika Banerjee. The actor said she was working with Mamata Banerjee for 10 years and called upon the people to vote for the party.
Actors Srabanti Chatterjee and Yash Dasgupta have joined the BJP.