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Referendum on Singur, Nandigram

If last week’s voting had the Left in West Bengal on edge with Maoist threats in the south west and the Gorkhaland upsurge in the North, Thursday’s will be an acid test for the Trinamool Congress-Congress alliance. Rakeeb Hossain reports.

india Updated: May 07, 2009 01:17 IST
Rakeeb Hossain
Rakeeb Hossain
Hindustan Times

In Bengal’s most crucial round when 17 constituencies vote, Singur and Nandigram will dominate the scene. The key issue will be agriculture versus industry.

It will be a test of the ruling Left Front as well as the Opposition to show their strength in areas which have dominated debate in the country in the past couple of years: Singur, Nandigram and Nayachar.

In effect, this phase will give a clear verdict. Who do the masses want: the ‘pro-industry’ Left or the Trinamool which, according to its chief Mamata Banerjee (53), is fighting for “Ma, Mati, Manush, (mother, soil, people) of Bengal.”?

In 2004, the Left won 14 of the 17 seats that will are going to vote in this phase. But political equations have changed rapidly in the last couple of years following the Singur and Nandigram incidents. Much of Left Front’s vote base has eroded in these flashpoint regions as proved by the Left’s poor show in panchayat elections in both places. Both Nandigram (in Tamluk constituency) and Singur (Hooghly constituency) will vote on Thursday.

The Congress, which is in an alliance with Trinamool, is fighting to retain its three seats in the Murshidabad district, where heavyweight candidates like Union External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee (74) are seeking re-election.

Not just in this phase of polling, Nandigram and Singur will have an impact on all the 42 seats of Bengal. However, the performance in this phase of polling would help both parties formulate their strategies for the upcoming Assembly elections in 2011.

First Published: May 07, 2009 01:11 IST