Once the epicentre of a revolution that propelled Trinamul supremo Mamata Banerjee to power in 2011, Nandigram once again is on the cusp of another revolution.
More than two lakh people there are closely watching the political parties thrusting and parrying on its soil for reign, having completely shoved aside the needs of the people.
The Bhanga Bera Bridge between Khejur i and Sonachura, Nandigram in 2007 was a silent witness to a bloody battle between members of Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) and the police where 14 lives were lost in firing on 14 March. The clashes were over land acquisition to set up a chemical factory. Today, Nandigram is shouting out “Shilpo Chai, Chakri Chai”(We want industry, we want jobs) as the same bridge now stands witness to the abject poverty in the adjacent Pyke Para colony where toilets are just makeshift arrangements using torn and tattered pieces of cloth and access to drinking water is a distant dream. Madan Pyke, a resident of the colony was disappointed when asked whether Nandigram will vote for “Banglar Meye” Miss Banerjee who is contesting for the seat. He retorts, “Why should we? We are living in poverty while her government pretends to remain oblivious. There are at least 100 women in this colony but not a single toilet that was supposed to be constructed with the central funds that arrived long back. Doing the rounds of the local Panchayat offices yielded no result.” Among the shabby makeshift toilets, a newly made cemented one stands out. He remarked, “This one was made yesterday since the elections are here.”
Even as the searing summer heat cracks open the dry fields of Nandigram, Pyke Para locals have to cover unimaginable distances to fetch potable water. “Is drinking water, not a necessity?” asked Madan’s neighbour who complained he was not even compensated after Amphan blew away his hut’s roof.
“We will vote for ‘Bhoomiputra’ (Suvendu Adhikari). He at least spared a thought for us by ensuring the construction of the road in the colony when he was the chairman of Haldia Development Authority.” The poster that bears testimony to this work was covered to ensure the Model Code of Conduct is not violated.
Meanwhile, the mercury soared high in Satengabari in the far end of Nandigram II where CPI-M candidate Minakshi Mukherjee reminded people how Trinamul and BJP are deluding them and turning the knife inside as Nandigram bleeds from a thousand cuts. Mukherjee’s message was: the time has come again for people to strike back through their votes. That she is being considered a formidable opponent against the ‘titans’ finds evidence in the murmurs of the crowd where some even compared her with ‘Banglar meye’, remarking that she may be the next woman leading Bengal.
In 2016 Assembly polls, the CPI-M alliance finished second in Nandigram with 53,393 votes; Adhikari, then a Trinamul candidate, won with 1,34,623 votes. The broad consensus among the local populace is CPI-M, which earlier had a stronghold in this area, has good chances if it manages to bag both the anti-incumbency votes and those of its supporters who had voted for the BJP in 2019 parliamentary elections due to lack of a “third option” in the Trinamul-BJP binary equation.
In Nandigram, farmlands on either side of the road are dotted with rows of structures resembling trees with bright red, green, and saffron flags symbolising the leaves. A 70- year-old Panchanan Samanta was looking at it with curiosity when he remarked to The Statesman, on the day of election results on 2 May, Bengal will know who played the ultimate prank on whom. Nandigram is going for polls on 1 April (April Fool’s Day).