If the Nandigram model has been a political success story for Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress ,its not merely the robust coalition of all anti-Left forces thats at work. More importantly,its ranks are filled with former Communist cadres who were trained in the CPMs legendary election workshop and who Mamata used to call the key cogs of the CPMs scientific rigging machine. Now they are working for her.
So successful has this model been that in all elections held in Nandigram after the March 14 firing in 2007 starting from local panchayats to state Assembly by-polls the ruling Marxists have been trounced showing that even a CPM stronghold can be breached if the opposition unites. This time,the Left is worried that a replication of this model elsewhere in the state could spring major surprises including in Nandigram which falls in the Tamluk Lok Sabha seat, held by CPMs Lakshman Seth. It goes to polls this Thursday.
For,the fact is that,on the ground,most leaders of the TMC-led movement had their roots in the ruling party. Take the Block Trinamool Congress Committee. The 42-member committee has 35 members who had links with the ruling party. Most of the 834 CPM cardholders in Nandigram block are either inactive now or have left the party to join the opposition. In at least six South Bengal districts,the grass-roots committees of the CPM are not working as per party diktat,highly placed party leaders said.
In Nandigram,all former CPM activists who joined the TMC now lead the gram panchayats in the area. Said a senior CPM leader in Nandigram on the condition that he not be named: We do not fear erosion of votes,we fear erosion in our ranks. In fact,CPMs state committee is concerned about non-functional units among its 26,000 branch committees. It has reason to. Consider the following in Nandigram:
n Nishikanta Mandal,a former CPM zonal committee member,now runs the Sonachura village panchyat for Trinamool Congress.
n Shiekh Sahauddin,a former CPM local committee member,now runs Kendamari village panchayat for Trinamool Congress. All 10 gram panchayats in Nandigram are headed by people who quit CPM after the police firing. Said Sahauddin: As these leaders left,their supporters also shifted their camp.
Sahauddin now heads the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee (Save Land Committee). The head of the Trinamool Block Congress committee was a local CPI leader
n Khush Nabi,another former local committee member,now runs Samsabad village panchayat for TMC.
There are many more. The CPMs Nandigram zonal committee decided to drop 90 of its 834 cardholders after they led the anti-CPM campaign in villages. Once,under the Nandigram zonal committee,six local committees and 76 branch committees of the CPM used to work. A check revealed that most of the 76 branch committees are now defunct. The branch office at Amgatchia was closed since the police firing. Same is the situation in Sonachura and Gokulnagar.
In some areas,its worse. The CPM has not been able to appoint agents in many polling booths. The present CPM local committee secretary in Nandigram,Sahidullah,is one of the few party members who regularly visits the party office. At least 52 booths in Nandigram alone will not have election agents during the Lok Sabha polls. Our members cannot work freely in the area, he said.
After the panchayat rout of the CPM in 2008 in Nandigram and East Midnapore,several district leaders sent an SOS to CPMs headquarters in Alimuddin Street demanding that Laxman Seth not be nominated again. But party bosses overruled objections arguing that he will be instrumental in land acquisition in Nayachar for the proposed chemical hub thats been moved out of Nandigram.
Nandigram has become the veritable epicentre of Mamatas campiagn. She kicked off her Lok Sabha poll campaign from here and carried the soil of Nandigram across the state.
While her candidate for the seat Subhendu Adhikari is an extremely popular figure,the average voter is sceptical about Seth. He is often seen as an extra constitutional authority in Haldia the new business hub in the state. In Haldia port,Seths writ runs supreme, said Animesh Patra,a businessman in Tamluk market.
Under Tamluk constituency,not o nly Nandigram but the Mahisadal Assembly segment also replicated Nandigram in the panchayat polls. In the Panchayat Samity the middle tier in the three-tier Panchayati Raj System the CPM has only one representative while the opposition has 30. In the district,among 223 gram panchayats,the TMC won in 181. Of the seven Assembly segments,five are said to be in favour of Adhikary.
Seth may be down but he is certainly not out. He has won the Tamluk Lok Sabha seat three times while the Congress won it in 1996 and the Bharatiya Lok Dal in 1977. Seth has given more stress on door-to-door campaigns. I am trying to convince people that industrialization can change life of the common people, said Seth. Hes been trying that for a while now with little success.