On March 17 2007, days after the police firing in Nandigram, sleuths of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) recovered a cache of arms and ammunition, in addition to arresting 10 suspected CPI(M) cadres from the Janani brick kiln in Khejuri, thereby establishing for the first time that the Left stronghold was being used to target members of the Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee, an apolitical outfit protesting the forced acquisition of land in Nandigram.
Both Nandigram and Khejuri almost became synonymous since. However, over time the roles have reversed. Now, it is CPI(M), which is faced with a battle for survival in Khejuri in the elections. This time Trinamool Congress’s Ranjit Mondol is set for battle with the Left-backed Socialist Party candidate Asim Mondol. An estimated 1, 73976 voters of Khejuri would cast their franchise across 190 booths in the fourth phase of polls, scheduled for May 3.
“We are being attacked regularly by Trinamool workers. They along with a section of police are working against us. If people were allowed to vote, we would win. But would they be allowed to vote freely?” said Asim Mondol. “Look who is talking about violence? Like Nandigram, people of Khejuri have boycotted CPI(M). I am now thinking of the development initiatives in Nandigram and Khejuri, not about winning,” said Ranjit Mondol.
At a recent political rally in Nandigram, Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee spoke about the development of not only Nandigram but also Khejuri, promising people friendly industrial hubs in the area. It was from Nandigram that the Trinamool chief had called for Parivartan (change), which has since swelled into a tsunami currently sweeping the state.
Since 1982, the Left has kept hold of the Khejuri seat. In 2006, Swadesh Patra of Socialist Party won against Partha Pratim Das of the Trinamool. In earlier sequences of Left victories, Sunirmal Paik of the Socialist Party defeated Ram Chandra Mandal of Trinamool in 2001. Again, in 1996, CPI(M)’s Ram Chandra Mandal trounced Sunirmal Paik, contesting on a Congress ticket. However, switching loyalties in favour of CPI(M) in 1991, Paik defeated Congress Shantiram Das in 1991. Again, contesting as an Independent, Paik beat Sushanta Mandal of the Congress in 1987 and 1982.
In 2006, the Left nominee won by a margin of 22, 000 votes, but suffered a meltdown in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, trailing by 1500 votes. Post delimitation, 13 anchals form the assembly segment, of which four are with the Trinamool. However, local CPI(M) leaders and cadres numbering over 2,554 were displaced from their homes back in June 2009, following a spike in political violence. After 22 months away from home, they returned in March this year.
“We have got just one month. But, we have still been able to conduct a rally led by the chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in Heria yesterday. The response has been tremendous,” said Himanshu Das, CPI(M) leader in-charge of Khejuri.