Nandigram waits for a gift from their Didi
It doesn't take much to figure out that Firoza Bibi is not what it takes to be the MLA from a place that has come to be known as the epicentre of the change waiting to happen in Bengal. Rajesh Mahapatra and Ravik Bhattacharya report.india Updated: Apr 22, 2011 14:17 IST
It doesn't take much to figure out that Firoza Bibi is not what it takes to be the MLA from a place that has come to be known as the epicentre of the change waiting to happen in Bengal.
Both her supporters and detractors would say as much, and some of them had gone to the extent of asking Mamata Banerjee to pick a new candidate for Nandigram.
But Mamata decided to stick with Firoza, who 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.
The decision disappointed many, but now, they see a silver lining in Firoza's nomination. They are hoping that Mamata might pick Nandigram to enter the assembly once she becomes chief minister.
"She (Firoza) is the shikhandi," said Pulinbihari Mondol, whose son, Pushpendu, also died in the police firing of March 14, 2007. "If our leader has decided to make her the candidate again, she may not really be thinking of a full term for her. It is possible that our leader might choose to contest from here, and Firoza, 55, will be only too happy to oblige, and step down."
If Mondol's hope, which is also shared by others in Nandigram, turns real, it will be a huge political statement from Mamata. It was with the bloodied farmers' agitation against a special economic zone in Nandigram that the tide turned decisively for Mamata to come so close to power that she is now.
"It all started here - the parivartan wave," Mondol said. "It is only befitting that our leader be the next to represent Nandigram in the assembly."
The Trinamool will 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 (Mamata)."
There could not be a better place than Nandigram for Mamata to contest, said Adhikary, who was the Trinamool leader's point man in Nandigram during the agitation.
Two years through her tenure as MLA, voters of Nandigram are getting increasingly disillusioned with Firoza Bibi, who has studied up to Class 8.
"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 of what the job of an MLA is."
Jana's comments are not entirely misplaced. When HT caught up with Firoza Bibi, she was lounging at her home in Jadubari Chowk. She had no meeting to attend, no rally to address, even though elections in Nandigram are just about 10 days away.
She told us she would win by a bigger margin this time, but fumbled to recall the margin by which she had won the election in 2009. She had difficulty in answering questions on the number of voters in Nandigram, the number of villages, or even the Hindu-Muslim break-up in her constituency.
She also seems to have done little to find jobs for the families of the victims of the March 14 firing, who had written to Mamata in March asking for a change. Some victims complained she never visited them.
Still they, and others in Nandigram, will elect her, because "they are voting for change, they are voting for Mamata".