BJP is the only opposition party in Bengal to stay away from the land agitations that are erupting in various spots of the state though Congress, CPI(M) and a host of Naxalite outfits and human rights organisations are rushing to join the aggrieved landlosers. BJP, the only party the vote share of which has consistently risen in the state over the past three years, has remained conspicuous by its absence.
The party has neither sent its representatives to the agitating landlosers nor issued any statement, even as land agitations broke out at four places over the past one month. Talking to HT, BJP state unit chief Dilip Ghosh said they do not intend to join these agitations.
“There are grievances among the landlosers for various reasons, primarily due to the state government’s mishandling of the situation. However, at every place, the trouble is being fomented by Naxal outfits. These Naxal outfits are stalling major development projects in other parts of the country creating trouble over the land issue. The Congress and the Left are joining these movements hoping to increase their fast-eroding support base, but we do not intend to hamper development for short-time political gain,” Ghosh told HT.
Land agitation first broke out in Bhangar of South 24-Parganas district against the setting up of a power grid early in January and finally led to the death of two villagers in firing by persons yet to be identified.
Soon thereafter, agitations broke out against land acquisition for the expansion of NH 34 at Amdanga in North 24-Parganas, for against an airport near Durgapur in Burdwan district and against the state government’s decision to use land acquired for industries at Bolpur in Birbhum to set up a university.
While a small Naxalite outfit, CPI(ML)(Red Star), led the agitations in Bhangar, members of such other small outfits as CPI(ML)(SOC) and CPI(ML)(PCC) were seen at Amdanga, Andal and Bolpur. Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR), the largest rights organisation in the state, and CPI(ML)(Liberation) has joined the Bhangar movement as well.
Congress was the first among major opposition parties to reach out to the protesters. State Congress chief and Beherampore MP Adhir Chowdhury had held meetings in Bhangar even before firing claimed two lives on January 17 and paid two more visits later. On February 5, he first went to Amdanga and later to Bolpur to speak to agitators. CPI(M) state secretary Suryakanta Mishra and other leaders also visited Bhangar in the second week of February.
“Congress made it clear by enacting the new land acquisition legislation that the party wants to protect the interests of the farmers. We had participated in land agitations in Singur and Nandigram as well. Now that people are agitating against acquisition of land at gun point or for throwaway prices, it is incumbent upon us to stand by them,” Chowdhury told HT.
CPI(M) was initially hesitant in joining land agitations because they had always dubbed the Banerjee-led agitations in Singur and Nandigram as ‘anti-development’.
Later, as it became clearer that one of major reasons for resentment among farmers at Bhangar, Amdanga and Andal was the involvement of local toughs, allegedly backed by Trinamool Congress, in the process of acquiring land, the CPI(M) has found it a good opportunity to champion their land policy over the one followed by the Banerjee government.
They not only sent delegations to Bhangar but also participated in agitations organised by various Naxalite outfits. Their desperation to be part of the protests became evident, as they decided to tolerate slogans that criticised the role of the Left Front government’s role in Singur and Nandigram along with Mamata Banerjee government’s role in Bhangar.
CPI(M) politburo member and Lok Sabha MP Mohammad Salim made the party’s stand clear while speaking to the media. “We have been telling from the time of Mamata Banerjee-led agitations in Singur and Nandigram that her policy will pave the path for local toughs and land mafias to get involved in getting land for industrial projects,” he said.
While the Left Front government decided to acquire entire stretches of land for industrial private projects in Singur and Nandigram, Mamata Banerjee government decided that they government will not intervene in acquiring land for any private industrial project.
BJP, however, seems to be little bothered about land agitations. “We do want the land losers to get a better deal but do not intend to involve ourselves in any kind of destructive agitation that will harm the agenda of development,” Ghosh said.