Four years ago, when the first bullet was fired and blood spilled in the paddy fields of Nandigram, the fate of the Marxists was sealed forever.
What began as land acquisition in Nandigram, ended with a series of electoral defeats for the Left Front. It culminated on Friday with the fall of their 34-year-old regime.
If Singur was the highpoint of the farmers’ agitation in the country led by Mamata Banerjee, Nandigram was the Trinamool chief’s crusade for villagers who were protesting against forcible acquisition of more than 14,000 acres of farmland and homesteads by the Left Front government for a chemical hub.
Setangabari, Tekhali, Gokulnagar, Samsabad, Takapura, Daudpur, Kendemari Jalpai, Mohammadpur, Garchakraberia, Sonachura and Bhekutia were traditional red bastions in Nandigram where political clashes have claimed 34 lives so far.
How it all started? On March 14, 2007, cops fired at the villagers who were merely grumbling against forcible land acquisition. This became Mamata’s plank to take on the Left. And its crescendo was heard across the country. It even reached Parliament following which the UPA Cabinet decided to shape the SEZ bill.
“People of Bengal never forgave CPI(M) after this. They felt the party no longer protected their interests but had turned into land grabbers to fill their pockets,” said Union minister of state for rural development Sisir Adhikari, who is also the Trinamool district president. Disenchantment of the people against the Left was reflected in the ballot box.
The CPI(M) received its first blow in the 2008 panchayat polls. In Nandigram-I, Trinamool captured all the 10 anchals while it bagged six out of seven in Nandigram II. The CPI(M) just managed one.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Nandigram villagers gave a fitting reply to MP Lakshman Seth who tried to acquire their land against their wish. Trinamool’s Suvendu Adhikari won from the seat.
Later that year, in the assembly bypolls, Trinamool candidate Feroza Bibi defeated the CPI candidate to capture the seat. “With heightened security and an effective Election Commission, we knew that the polls would be free and fair this time. We have witnessed a lot of rigging in the past, now we want peace and democracy,” Arunodoya Maity, who lives near Talpati Bridge along the Sonachura-Khejuri border, said.
On Friday, sitting Trinamool MLA Feroza Bibi won handsomely. This was expected. “Nandigram is no longer a local issue. It has been the driving force for the Trinamool,” Mamata told HT at her residence.
Mamata held only 10 public meetings in Nandigram in the run up to the assembly polls. The Trinamool chief has promised that once in power, she would develop Nandigram with the support of people.