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Bengal BJP Takes a Leaf out of Mamata’s Playbook, Launches 3-day Farm Protest in Singur

There is a sense of deja vu with a difference in West Bengal’s Singur town. Almost 15 years after Mamata Banerjee sowed the seeds of her party Trinamool Congress’s rise to power in the state with anti-land acquisition protests in this area of Hooghly district, the Bharatiya Janata Party initiated a three-day farm agitation here on Tuesday in a bid to grow deeper roots in Bengal and turn its political fortunes around. So, slogans, flags and banners have made a comeback. And while Mamata was the leader of the movement in 2006-08, this time she is the target.

The BJP Kisan Morcha’s protest has raised allegations that farmers in Bengal get a lower minimum support price (MSP) for their produce than in other states, they don’t get any protection for natural calamities and they don’t get subsidised electricity, etc. The party has set up its dharna mancho (protest podium) where Mamata sat for her agitation. The Trinamool chief managed to turn public opinion in her favour when she came to power in 2011 riding waves of the anti-land acquisition movements in Singur against a planned Tata Nano plant, and in Nandigram against the Salem group’s chemical hub project.

BJP Bengal president Sukanta Majumder said, “We are sitting here for a three-day agitation. Farmers should get their due…this is the state where farmer MSP is the lowest. We have given our memorandum to the governor, now we are sitting on a dharna. We plan to carry out a big movement.”

The BJP is in a bruised state following the loss in the fiercely fought April-May assembly elections and defeats in bypolls after that. According to political analysts, the party is banking on the Singur agitation to draw the people’s interest and rally support, particularly ahead of the Kolkata civic polls to be held on December 19. It wants to create pressure on the Mamata Banerjee government by raising farmers’ issues from the same place where the TMC chief started a successful campaign to oust the Left from power in the state after over three decades.

The BJP’s agitation also comes close on the heels of the 2020-21 farmers’ agitation around Delhi and other parts of India that received encouragement from rival parties like the TMC and led to the central government scrapping three controversial laws last month.

State BJP chief Majumder, leader of opposition in the state Suvendu Adhikari and party vice president Dilip Ghosh were seen together protesting against Mamata in Singur. “We will not tolerate this atrocity on farmers. We will rally from Singur to Nabanna (the state secretariat in Kolkata). We will go for a big farmers’ movement. Farmers will walk and will reach Nabanna,” said Adhikari. Mamata came to power because of farmers but she did not do much for them, he added.

“The farmers were betrayed by Mamata Banerjee,” said Ghosh. “They can’t farm here in this soil after the Tatas went. No industry, no agriculture…see what the Mamata Banerjee government has done.”

TMC minister Firhad Hakim responded, saying the BJP wants to divert attention because it is going to lose the civic polls. “Singur is with us and will always be with us,” he said.

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