The battle for political supremacy often throws up interesting contests featuring contenders who may be sharing a history between them – the pages of which may be drenched in blood. In the politically sensitive state of West Bengal, a similar battle is brewing between an independent candidate and the one representing the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in a historic census town of Singur , just about 30 kilometres north of Howrah.
The name of Singur brings to the mind the agitation that propelled Mamata Banerjee to power. The town became symbolic of the end of the 34 years of Left rule in the state.
Banerjee led the massive protests against the then Communist Party of India (Marxist) government led by Buddhadeb Dasgupta over the land acquisition for the Tata Nano factory.
Among the protesters was a 16-year-old girl, Tapasi Malik, who was part of the Trinamool Congress-led Save Farmland Committee. She was raped and murdered on 12 December 2006, and her charred body was found on 18 December from a pit inside the area fenced off for the small car project. Among those found guilty were then CPI(M) zonal committee member Debu Malik and CPI(M) leader Suhrid Dutta.
Now, 12 years later, her father Manoranjan Malik, a staunch TMC supporter, is contesting the panchayat elections as an Independent candidate. The TMC candidate pitted against him is the nephew of Debu Malik.
“It is a shame that the nephew of a man who killed my daughter got a ticket from TMC,” Manoranjan Mallik told Dainik Statesman.
Though aghast at the decision by the party, Manoranjan says he harbours no anger against the party but is contesting against the person who got the ticket.
Manoranjan stressed that he was not doing anything against the party by contesting against the man whose kin killed his daughter.
He says he still has faith in CM Mamata Banerjee and affirms the same by calling ‘Didi’ – as Banerjee is popularly known – a “great leader”.
This is why, Manoranjan says, he will ask for votes in Didi’s name. It is interesting to note that Manoranjan is considered close to Singur MLA Rabindranath Bhattacharjee.
Whether or not he wins against the candidate he dislikes will be evident after the 14 May local bodies elections in the state.
Manoranjan is also being wooed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is trying to build a strong base in the state to defeat the TMC.
State BJP president Dilip Ghosh is believed to have himself invited Manoranjan to join the saffron party. Manoranjan, however, remains tight-lipped about the offer.
A sessions court had in November 2008 handed life imprisonment to both Debu Mallik and Suhrid Dutta. The two were released on bail in February 2009.
Meanwhile, a record 20,000 panchayat seats were won without contest in the state, giving TMC a massive edge over the entire opposition in the three-tier elections.
TMC was the only party to have fielded candidates in all of the seats in the rural body polls.
According to State Election Commission (SEC) data, 16,814 seats of the 48,650 seats in gram panchayats remained uncontested. In panchayat samitis, 3,059 of the 9,217 seats remained uncontested. Further, 203 of 825 seats in 20 zilla parishads were uncontested.
This means the 14 May elections will be fought for the remaining 38,616 seats.