The Supreme Court verdict on Singur on Wednesday has catapulted Mamata Banerjee to the centre-stage of anti-land acquisition movement in the country. She is now being hailed as the leader of all exploited farmers, an image that could shape her political future.
Political observers told HT on Wednesday that now is perhaps the opportune time for this street-fighter to make a strong pitch for a role at the Centre. Her party has already decimated the opposition in Bengal and in Bengal, she has emerged as a champion of the minorities. Some have even begun portraying Mamata as the leader of a non-BJP, non-Congress alternative to the Narendra Modi regime in the 2019 parliamentary elections.
At the press conference soon after the apex court order on Singur, Mamata Banerjee played her role as a leader of farmers to the hilt.
“The Supreme Court’s verdict is a victory for all farmers throughout the country. The land bill is still there before Parliament. We want the government to negotiate with farmers for any project. We follow that policy here,” she told reporters, adding, “The fight for farmers’ rights throughout the country will continue.”
“Mamata Banerjee’s Singur and Nandigram movements not only inspired farmers in India, but also in sub-Saharan countries and Latin America where people resisted forcible land-grabbing by governments. Farmers in different parts of the country like Haryana and Odisha launched agitations,” said Sukhendu Shekhar Roy, Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP.
Many Trinamool Congress leaders believe that Wednesday’s SC verdict will now rally farmers in the country behind Mamata Banerjee. This will in turn strengthen the idea of an alternative secular front mooted by Mamata Banerjee. At her swearing-in ceremony for a second term, potential secular front leaders like Lalu Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Arvind Kejriwal and Farooq Abdullah were present.
“This was definitely a boost for Mamata Banerjee’s image and stature. If anything, the apex court ruling on Singur vindicated her stand on land acquisition,” said Amal Mukhopadhyay, professor of political science and former principal of Presidency College.
Trinamool Congress is already looking beyond the borders of Bengal. The party is now the principal opposition in Tripura and has presence in several north-eastern states. Mamata Banerjee’s campaign against the BJP over issues like beef ban and cow slaughter has gone down well among her followers.
Mamata’s upcoming visit to Rome for the canonisation of Mother Teresa with a big delegation will further bolster her image as a secular leader.