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Catch-22 situation for Left Front

Left's potent mix of development and welfare to whet voters' appetite threatens to backfire.
None | By Arindam Sarkar and Romita Datta, Kolkata/ Uttarbhag
PUBLISHED ON MAR 30, 2006 03:46 PM IST

It is a catch-22 situation for the Left Front in West Bengal. Chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee may have rustled up a potent mix of development and welfare to whet voters' appetite, but the process threatens to backfire in the backyard — the farms.

As the state maps its lush acres - the first such exercise by any state in the country for fast-track progress, the tillers are crying foul.

The process is beset with paradox. The Left Front wanted to run a reality check before acquiring land for industries, especially for those planned by Indonesiabased Salim Group.

But the vast multitudes of farmers, who form the front’s single largest ballot block, are suspicious. They see in it a possible threat of dis- placement. Pushed to the wall, the CM has sought GSI and ISRO's help to classify Ben- gal land into different categories.

"This is to ensure that land not suitable for agriculture is used for industrialisation," he said. Fear is palpable among people of Uttarbhag, Him- chi and Piali in South 24 Parganas, who are opposed to development that the Salim ven- ture might entail. It cuts across party lines.

In a series of recent public rallies, top CPI-M leaders like Jyoti Basu and MP Sujan Chakrabarty painted a rosy picture for farmers. But all that ring hollow now.

"Sujan babu said if our land is taken away, he would not take up the microphone again," said Sachin Pailan, villager with sarcasm. Sachin's family has 10 bighas of multi-crop land at Uttarbhag, which grows paddy, wheat, vegetables and even sunflower. And Sachin has always been a votary of the hammer-andsickle. But, this time, his party has let him down. It has plunged his family of 17 into uncertainty. The produce from his fertile plot has been yielding enough year after year to feed the family.

But Salim might take it all away.

Confusion is writ large on Shibshankar Sardar's face. "What will we eat if our land is taken away?" he asks. And so do several others. The CPI-M has not put land on its agenda this time, but it hangs in the air unspoken.

Looks like the Left has some more brainstorming to do if it has to strike a middle ground between Communism and development.

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