Singur (West Bengal), Jan 16 (IANS) The Left Front on Saturday resurrected an old slogan in poll-bound West Bengal emphasising the need for industries, as it called for evicting the ruling Trinamool Congress from this rural hamlet, which a few years back saw violent peasant protests against ‘forcible’ land acquisition that finally culminated in ending the Left Front’s 34-year reign.
Protesting against then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s bid to set up the Tata Nano small car plant here in Hooghly district by acquiring a large chunk of land, the main opposition of that time, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool, had spearheaded the protests that saw the automobile giant move out the unit to Sanand in Gujarat.
“Agriculture is our base, industry is our future” — the Left Front slogan once prominently seen on walls across the state and heard in all its meetings — was raised on Saturday by none other than Bhattacharjee, who returned to this area after five years to flag off a protest march against lack of factories and jobs in the state during the Banerjee’s rule.
Slamming the Trinamool regime, Bhattacharjee said Bengal now resembles a “pit of hell”.
“Our boys and girls have no future. We are only regressing. Youths don’t have jobs. No factories are coming up. People of entire India are laughing at us.
“Even the existing factories are closing shop. Jute mills are closing down, every day in the newspapers, you will read the death news of a tea garden worker. They are dying of hunger, lack of medicines.
“I had been thinking and thinking whether I should come here. Then I decided that I needed to tell you these things. So I have come,” said Bhattacharjee, whose words were greeted with tumultuous applause by the crowd.
“We have come here to evict this government. We have come with some dreams. We Leftists will rid West Bengal of the pathetic state of affairs. We will do it,” he thundered.
Bhattacharjee said the state needed both agriculture and industry — the former for feeding the people, and the latter for ensuring jobs to the scores of unemployed youths who were the future of Bengal.
Pointing to the abandoned Nano plant, which is now the subject of a legal battle between the Mamata Banerjee government and the Tatas, Bhattacharjee said: “Only agriculture won’t do. In Singur, we had planned the huge plant. Had the plan fructified, the car plant and the large number of ancillaries would have completely changed Hooghly district.
“We had then said agriculture is our base, industry is our future. We have to take the same road to move ahead,” said Bhattacharjee, setting the tune for the Left Front’s campaign pitch for the coming assembly elections.
The protest march — demanding jobs, industries, agriculture and protection of farmers’ rights — would cover 191 km till West Midnapore district’s Salboni, where, significantly, the then Left Front government had planned a 10-million tonne integrated steel plant to be set up by the Sajjan Jindal promoted JSW Steel at an investment of Rs.35,000 crore.
After the Left Front lost power to the Trinamool in 2011, the plant became stillborn, largely because of lack of coal linkage.
Only a few days back, the foundation of a cement plant promoted by JSW and entailing an investment of Rs.800 crore was laid at Salboni.
The Left Front has been mocking the government for failing to start the integrated steel plant, and instead managing only the cement factory that entails a much lower investment and would ensure fewer jobs.
Launching a scathing attack on Banerjee, Bhattacharjee took a dig at her pet slogan “Ma, Mati, Manush” (Mother, Land and People) and said “Ma, Mati, Manush – this drama is now obsolete. We have seen enough. Stop this and quit.”