Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Lost opportunity for Tata car plant at Singur continues to dominate poll narrative in Hooghly

The BJP nominee has vowed that the party will bring back the Tatas to Singur if elected to power in the state.
Last Updated : 28 April 2024, 07:44 IST
Last Updated : 28 April 2024, 07:44 IST

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Kolkata: Sixteen years after an anti-land acquisition movement drove the Tata Nano car plant away from Singur, industrialisation still remains a key issue in the Hooghly Lok Sabha constituency where two cine stars, contesting on TMC and BJP tickets, pledge to revive industry in the region.

Hooghly district, home to Singur area, rose to national prominence in 2006-2007 due to the anti-land acquisition movement against the erstwhile Left Front government that eventually caused the regime's downfall, catapulting agitating TMC to power in the state.

But even after 16 years, the issue of the lost opportunity of industrialisation continues to dominate poll narratives of all parties in the fray.

TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee has fielded political greenhorn Rachana Banerjee, the charismatic host of the long-running hit TV show Didi No 1, to challenge the incumbent MP and noted actor Locket Chatterjee, representing the BJP.

Besides, CPI (M)'s young Turk Monodip Ghosh is also fighting on the poll plank of industrialisation and jobs.

The BJP nominee has vowed that the party will bring back the Tatas to Singur if elected to power in the state.

"We are confident of victory in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. We anticipate securing more seats than our 2019 count of 18. Once we win the polls comprehensively, the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC government will collapse in the state. After the BJP government comes to power, our first job will be to invite the Tatas to Singur," Chatterjee had said.

The TMC maintained that the party was never against industry but fought against forcible land acquisition.

"We were never against industry or Tatas. We were against forcible land acquisition by the CPI (M). In the last 12 years, our government has made several concrete efforts to bring industries into the state and we have been successful in achieving it," TMC leader Kunal Ghosh claimed.

Hooghly, known for its multi-crop fertile farmlands, hogged the limelight after Tata Motors set its sights on Singur to set up the small car manufacturing unit in 2006. The Left Front government acquired 997.11 acres along National Highway 2 and handed it over to the company.

Leading from the front, the then opposition leader and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee had observed a hunger strike for 26 days, demanding the return of 347 acres of plot which was allegedly acquired by force.

Despite several emissaries and meetings between the TMC and the Left Front government, no solution was reached and the Tatas eventually moved out of Singur and relocated the plant in Gujarat.

After a long legal battle and following the passage of the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Bill by the Mamata Banerjee government after it assumed power in 2011, unwilling farmers were returned their plots in 2016, a significant portion of which remains unfit for cultivation.

The CPI (M) has blamed the TMC for turning the area into barren land.

"Due to dirty politics of the TMC, the area neither got a world-class car plant nor agriculture as the land that was returned is no longer in a position to be cultivated," CPI (M) candidate Monodip Ghosh said.

Becharam Manna, TMC's MLA from Singur, accused the opposition of playing up the issue of industrialisation during elections.

"The opposition's recurrent tactic is to leverage the industrial narrative in every election. Yet, the steadfast farmers of Singur have time and again thwarted such attempts, delivering decisive victories in both assembly and panchayat polls. They will continue to support us in the Lok Sabha elections," he said.

According to agricultural experts, with concrete pillars and cemented slabs sticking out of the land, it is necessary to remove at least eight inches of topsoil to make the land cultivable again, which is an expensive affair and the farmers are in no position to bear that cost.

According to local farmers, it would take at least seven years for the land to be returned to a condition where crops can be grown.

"Industrialisation and the lost opportunity for it will continue to be the key issue in the polls. Both the TMC and the BJP will try to milk the issue. Now who will benefit most from it will only be known on June 4 after the votes are counted," political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty said.

The constituency was a pocket borough of the CPI (M) until the Singur issue surfaced.

Riding on farmers' protests, the TMC won the seat in 2009 and repeated the feat in the 2014 general elections. BJP's Locket Chatterjee won the seat by over 70,000 votes in 2019, pocketing nearly 46.5 per cent of the votes polled, while the TMC got around 41 per cent.

In the 2021 assembly polls, however, the TMC bagged all seven assembly segments falling under the Hooghly Lok Sabha constituency.

The seat has around 26.6 per cent of Scheduled Caste voters whereas Scheduled Tribes comprise nearly 7.4 per cent. The Muslim electorate comprises 14.6 per cent. The rural electorate is around 60 per cent of the eligible voting population.

Published 28 April 2024, 07:44 IST

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