It has been just a year and a half that the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government assumed power in West Bengal and the fault lines within the party rank and file are already beginning to show. Influential party legislators from Singur and Rashbehari Avenue, Kolkata - Rabindranath Bhattacharya and Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay have raised the banner of revolt.
The fact that West Bengal's new minister of state for agriculture Becharam Manna faced angry protests from land losers of Singur on Wednesday is a pointer. Singur is the holy ground where Trinamool Congress found its feet in the wake of the then CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's policy of forcible land acquisition in 2007 to facilitate setting up of a Tata Motors automobile plant. On Wednesday, November 29, 2012, many of those who had swelled the Trinamool file said they would not have joined the agitation against Tata Nano project had they known they would be left to their fate.
"We want money for the land taken away from us for the Nano car factory. We have waited for one and a half years (since TMC came to power in the state) to get the compensation, but we don't even hear about it anymore. We are now left begging," was the complaint of the people to Manna, a Trinamool Congress MLA from Haripal in the district who was closely associated with the Singur agitation.
The people were among the land losers who had neither signed nor taken any compensation for their holdings from the erstwhile Left Front government. The people of Gopalnagar, Beraberi and Khasherberi villages, land from which were included in the project site, had gathered in front of the BDO office for collecting rice coupons given by the state government.
Manna, who was there to oversee the distribution of the coupons, told the people that the state government was serious about its commitment to the Singur land losers. "This was reflected in the first Cabinet decision on land rehabilitation scheme for the affected after TMC came to power," he claimed.
"Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has not forgotten your plight. She will be here on Friday... I am certain that everything will be set right one day," Manna promised.
The state government had passed the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, 2011 but it was nullified by a division bench of the Calcutta High Court following which the state appealed before the Supreme Court, where the matter is pending.
The Trinamool government had passed the legislation at Banerjee's initiative providing for 400 acres to unwilling farmers who had to give up their holding for the small car project. The unwilling farmers had not even accepted compensation for their land at Singur.
Meanwhile, disgruntled minister Rabindranath Bhattacharya said he will speak about his decision to attend the administrative meeting convened by the chief minister at Singur on November 30 after seeing the designation that he is attributed in the formal invitation, which he is yet to receive.
"Let me see my designation in the formal invitation...Whether I am addressed as a minister or an MLA. I shall then announce my decision," he told reporters at his Sibarambati village residence near here.
Bhattacharya reiterated the issue of corruption, which he said, had been highlighted by him several times at the party fora. "I said that we had come to power due to the people's mandate against corruption. Now if we follow the same path, then people would stop supporting us," he said.
"There are things happening here. Money has been changing hands in lieu of job promises. I am sure people at various hierarchies within the party are aware of this. But why is there no action against these elements," he questioned while speaking to IBNLive over the telephone.
Bhattacharya, whose portfolio was changed in the recent reshuffle, said he had earlier as agriculture minister initiated steps or ordered probe in many cases of corruption.
He was among the leaders of the Singur agitation and a TMC member since it came into being in 1998. He also has a large following among the people of the area and is generally respected by all. He had received a call from the chief minister's secretariat yesterday requesting him to attend the November 30 administrative meeting here convened by the Trinamool supremo.
The district administration meeting, which was supposed to be held at Chinsurah, the district headquarters, was shifted to Singur apparently to satisfy the sulking minister.
Bhattacharya is adamant in not taking over the new portfolio of Statistics and Programme Implementation after being shunted from agriculture, complaining that the shift to indicated that the party has a dim view of his performance.
Trinamool Congress insiders, on the condition of anonymity, told IBNLive that a large number of party leaders are disgusted with Mamata Banerjee's autocratic style of functioning but are too scared to come out in the open.
Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay is Trinamool Congress' first-ever legislator and he was manhandled by Trinamool Congress workers at the Calcutta University premises on Wednesday as he objected to the use of microphones in an academic institute. Apparently, workers, chanting the name of Mamata Banerjee, pushed and shoved the veteran politician and prevented him from holding the meeting.
In protest, the legislator planned to have a protest demonstration on Thursday and was only dissuaded by direct phone calls from Mamata Banerjee and Mukul Roy to call it off, party insiders told IBNLive.
IBNLive has also learnt that the high-handed attitude of East Midnapore MLA and Trinamool strongman Subhendu Adhikari has alienated a lot of the party's supporters. Adhikari was instrumental in driving away the Haldia port handlers and has recently been in news for issuing veiled threats and diktats to people in the district, asking them not to side with CPI(M), Congress or the BJP. "Do not forget that I would conduct the panchayat elections in this district," he had said publicly. Now, that sounds surprisingly similar to what former CPI(M) MP from Haldia Lakshman Seth had said in 2006-2007. And we all know what happened to CPI(M) in the 2011 state Assembly elections.
(With inputs from PTI)