The CPM’s candidate for Singur says he will focus his campaign on education, employment generation, water to all and free electricity up to 200 units
Till a few years ago, Srijan Bhattacharya would often be seen at The Worldview — a bookstore and popular meeting spot at Kolkata’s Jadavpur University. Now, the 27-year-old — who was earlier the Bengal general secretary of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) — is the Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s candidate from Singur.
Bhattacharya said, “The fundamental thing which has changed from my JU days to the present day is that earlier, I was a student activist and now, I am contesting the Assembly election from the crucial seat of Singur. The people of Singur have a lot of expectations from me and my party has given me this important task.”
‘TMC has cheated Singur’
Speaking about the current political situation in Singur, Bhattacharya asserted, “The people of Singur are very upset with the TMC. They had harboured the feeling of betrayal for a long time now. Now, they are also upset over the TMC’s Rabindranath Bhattacharya joining the BJP.”
Recently, at a rally, Banerjee had promised a massive factory at Singur. Bhattacharya says that this promise “clearly proves” that no development has taken place in Singur and the basic needs of the people were ignored. He suggests that Mamata Banerjee along with her aides from the protests against land acquisition at Singur should meet ailing former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and apologise
“However, I do not want to get into political mudslinging. My campaign is a positive one. I am neither focusing on communal issues nor focusing on attacking the TMC and BJP. These attacks are not needed because the people here are very smart and the reality is in front of them. Employment generation is the most pressing need for people here. We will establish a factory at Singur — it was a the dream which Buddhadeb Bhattacharya saw,” he said.
The CPM’s candidate for Singur says he will focus his campaign on education, employment generation, water to all and free electricity up to 200 units. “A whole generation has been devastated because the TMC rule has ruined the economy of Bengal. They have not done anything in the agriculture sector either. No big industry has been set up in Bengal under Banerjee’s rule. Today, even MBA graduates are working as Swiggy delivery agents. Across all social classes, the youth are migrating to other states for jobs. This is the reality of Bengal. But the TMC and BJP are busy with divisive politics, which is the last thing Bengal needs right now,” says Bhattacharya.
Bhattacharya is among several young leaders who have been given tickets by the CPM this time — others being candidates such as Aishe Ghosh, Dipshita Dhar and Minakshi Chatterjee. Speaking about the CPM’s reliance on younger faces, Bhattacharya said, ” This idea that the CPM banks on only veterans is wrong. Young people are the backbone of Left politics. Student unions across many campuses are dominated by the Left. We have played key roles in mass movements like the farmers’ protest. This time, the party has also decided to bring us into electoral politics. However, it’s not as if the party has ignored the senior leaders —all our senior leaders are also fighting the election.”
For the 2021 Bengal election, the Left parties have formed an alliance with the Congress and the Indian Secular Front, which is led by Furfura Sharif cleric Abbas Siddiqui. The Opposition has slammed the Left parties for allying with ISF and also alleged that ISF is a communal force.
Rubbishing these allegations, Bhattacharya said, “Look at the candidate list of ISF — it includes Dalits, tribals and also Muslims. They are representing the minorities, and I do not believe that the ISF is communal. Siddiqui is a religious leader and religion is a private matter. Our alliance is not talking about or targeting any religious group. We want education for all, better healthcare, and generating employment,” he says.
He further said, “Siddiqui is a cleric and that is his profession. Who are we to question someone’s profession? He is a religious leader and he talks openly about religion. He does not need to chant the Chandipath one day and on next day, come up with slogans to please Muslims. Parties like the BJP use religion for their political benefit and that is what we are opposed to. For our alliance, equality is the fundamental ideal and development is our goal.”
The campaign of Bhattacharya is low-key. Rather than massive roadshows or rallies, he has been focusing on a door-to-door campaign. “We are very clear about what we want. It does not matter if we win or lose, but our fight will always be for issues of day-to-day life. Our leader Buddhadeb Bhattacharya gave us a mantra which is ‘krishi amader bhitti aar shilpo amader bhobishyot (Agriculture is our base and industry is our future). We are fighting the electoral battle with this in mind.”
The CPM candidate said, “Today, the youth plays a key role in electoral politics. The failure of Banerjee’s government has caused unemployment and led to most of the youths leaving Bengal. It is time to be united and remove this government. We will generate employment so that the youth who migrated outside can return, and those who are in Bengal can also get employment. To me, this election is about the future of Singur and more broadly, the future of Bengal. We all have to throw out the TMC government which has ruined Bengal, and also stop the BJP, which will not do our state any good either. We will have to create jobs and develop the education system of Bengal.”
Singur will go to vote on 10 April. The constituency holds significance as it had witnessed a protest against land acquisition for a proposed Tata Motors factory in 2006. The protest gave a boost to the popularity of Mamata Banerjee and later contributed to the defeat of the Left Front government, which had ruled the state for 34 years.
The BJP’s candidate for Singur is 88-year-old Rabindranath Bhattacharya, who was a key face of the Singur protests. He is up against his former protege, Becharam Manna of the TMC.
The author is a fellow at the Delhi Assembly Research Centre and a freelance journalist who writes on issues of governance and politics. He can be reached at @sayantan_gh