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It will be a long journey from Singur to Delhi

Mamata now wants to be the face of the champion of farmer rights.

kolkata Updated: Sep 15, 2016 09:27 IST
Ravik Bhattacharya
Mamata Banerjee addressing the rally at Singur on Wednesday. She not only started the process of returning the land, but also announced help to the villagers to resume cultivation as soon as possible.
Mamata Banerjee addressing the rally at Singur on Wednesday. She not only started the process of returning the land, but also announced help to the villagers to resume cultivation as soon as possible.(Subhendu Ghosh)

The grand reception to Mamata Banerjee on her triumphant Singur return on Wednesday and the sight of her handing out land deeds to farmers to a cheering audience not only reaffirmed her cult status at Ground Zero but also cast the proverbial halo around her pro-farmer image as her ruling Trinamool Congress sets sights beyond Bengal and forays into uncharted territories in poll-bound Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

Buoyed by the national party tag, the Trinamool plans to use her image and the Singur movement not just in the hope of reaping electoral dividends in the forthcoming polls, but also emerge as a credible national player in time for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Addressing a mammoth rally in Singur, Mamata said, “Bengal is now a model for the whole world. The Singur struggle will henceforth inspire people elsewhere to fight for their lands. I’ve kept my promise. This will go down as victory for the people of Singur.”

Read: Mamata returns land to Singur farmers, offers plot elsewhere for auto unit

“Our policy is clear. There will no forced acquisition of land for industrial projects. Even for laying railway lines, we’ll take the people along. The central government isn’t helping out needy states. Be it Punjab or Kerala, the situation is the same everywhere. We’ll soon hit the streets against this,” Mamata said.

The landmark Singur verdict not only brought closure to a decade-long agitation, but also boosted Mamata’s image nationally as a voice for the oppressed and a champion of land agitations.

File picture of Mamata Banerjee at a protest rally in Singur in November 2009. Since 2006, when she launched her anti-acquisition movement, she has assiduously cultivated her pro-farmer image. (Subhankar Chakraborty)

While basking in the glory of the Singur win, Mamata was mindful of her state’s industrial needs as she urged automobile giants like BMW and Tata Motors to set up shop in Bengal.

The Trinamool has drawn up an action plan before going to battle in poll-bound states. It has already set about opening and reviving party units in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand among others.

Read: Mamata describes the Singur acquisition as a historic suicide

“We’ll highlight Didi’s pro-farmer image to gain ground in such poll-bound states as Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Tripura. Farmers are the key to deciding the outcome of elections and the Singur win will help us rally support across the country. Mukul Roy (Trinamool vice-president) has been visiting the poll-bound states to help us expand beyond Bengal and lay the groundwork for elections,” a senior Trinamool leader and Lok Sabha MP told HT.

“Her visit to Rome (for the canonisation ceremony of Mother Teresa) and her support for the right to eat amidst the uproar over beef also made her a champion of minorities. Both the farmers and minorities are with us now,” the Trinamool MP said.

A section of the crowd in Singur on Wednesday. The villagers had the best Durga puja gift of their life. (Tweeter)

Mamata reportedly caught up with Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on the sidelines of the Rome event, fuelling rumours of a grand national coalition for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

“The Singur verdict came as vindication of Mamata’s stand vis-à-vis land acquisition. It has boosted her image not just in Bengal, but also across the country,” Amal Mukhopadhyay, noted political commentator and former principal of Presidency, told HT.

Read: Just before Durga puja, Mamata turns into a living goddess

The proposal of a secular front, which was mooted by Mamata Banerjee way back, went into reboot after she invited the likes of RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, Kejriwal and National Conference (NC) patriarch Farooq Abdullah to her swearing-in ceremony after being elected to office for the second time.

Trinamool recently emerged as the main opposition player in Left-ruled Tripura, after a clutch of Congress heavyweights switched camps. At a mega rally in Tripura, Mamata urged the people to bring another ‘Poriborton’ by ousting the Left.

Even the during the Martyrs’ Day rally on July 21, Trinamool leaders made no bones about the party’s national ambitions.