When Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee chose Firoza Bibi, 55, to contest from Nandigram, quite a few eyebrows were raised. Firoza had won a 2009 by-election riding on a Trinamool wave and sympathy for her son who died in the March 14, 2007 police firing that set off the Nandigram agitation. But her supporters and detractors still hold that the Class 8-pass leader does not have what it takes to be MLA of Nandigram, a place that has come to be known as the epicentre of the change waiting to happen in Bengal.
In fact, some of them had even gone to the extent of asking Banerjee to pick a new candidate. Although Didi's decision to stick with Firoza disappointed them, they are still hoping Banerjee will make up and pick Nandigram to enter the assembly, once she becomes chief minister that is.
“She (Firoza) is the shikhandi,” said Pulinbihari Mondol, whose son Pushpendu also died in the police firing in 2007. “It is possible that our leader might choose to contest from here, and Firoza will only be too happy to oblige, and step down.”
If Mondol’s hope, which is echoed by others in Nandigram, comes true, it will be a huge political statement from Mamata. After all, it was with the farmers’ agitation against a special economic zone in Nandigram that the tide turned decisively for Banerjee.
Trinamool Congress did not make any official comment on the issue, but Sisir Adhikary, a member of the party’s core committee said: “It’s a welcome idea. The decision, however, rests with the leader (Banerjee).”
When HT caught up with Firoza Bibi, she was lounging at her home in Jadubari Chowk, though elections in Nandigram are less than a fortnight away.
She claimed that she would win by a bigger margin this time, but fumbled when asked by what margin she had won in 2009. She also had difficulty answering questions on the number of voters in Nandigram, the number of villages or even the Hindu-Muslim break-up in her constituency.
“She can’t speak in the assembly. She hardly goes around the constituency,” said Soumyakanti Jana, whose mother was a victim of the police firing. “She has little idea as to what the job of an MLA is.”