There was no stopping the Trinamool Congress at Nandigram. The results of the assembly by-election of January 5, announced on Friday, saw Mamata Banerjee’s candidate Feroza Bibi defeating her Left Front rival Paramananda Bharati of the CPI by a margin of 39,551 votes.
Through most of 2007, Nandigram had been the center of an epic - and often violent - struggle led by the Trinamool of local farmers opposed to their lands being acquired for a major industrial project. By wresting the seat from the Left, Mamata proved that her struggle had indeed enjoyed widespread popular support.
Feroza Bibi was herself a member of the Bhoomi Ucched Pratirodh Committee (BUPC), which had led the Nandigram struggle. Her son, also a member, had died in police firing in March 2007.
With the Trinamool having earlier swept the panchayat elections in Nandigram in May 2008, its win was not entirely unexpected, but the wide margin of victory left the Left Front leaders flabbergasted. Nandigram had been a Left bastion for the last 30 years.
"I dedicate the win to all those who stood firm to protect their land," said Mamata.
"The Trinamool had let loose a reign of terror in the area," alleged Biman Bose, Left Front chairman, speaking on telephone from Kochi where a CPM central committee meeting is being held. "But we have to find out if there were any lapses on our part as well."
The seat fell vacant after sitting CPI MLA Sheikh Mohammed Ilyas was forced to resign, following a sting operation on him by a local television channel, that showed him allegedly engaged in corrupt practices.
Of the other two assembly seats where by elections too had been held, Sujapur remained with the Congress, while the Left retained Para.
Despite the setback, the Left continues to enjoy a huge majority in the assembly holding 234 of the 288 seats.