Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mamata loses Singur steam

Mamata loses Singur steam
- Late at memorial, crowd deserts leader

Singur, Dec. 18: Mamata Banerjee’s Singur campaign virtually ran out of steam today, the leader turning up late on the death anniversary of Tapasi Malik and failing to live up to her crowd-pulling reputation.

The Trinamul Congress leader was supposed to reach the venue of the public meeting, close to the Tata Motors project site, at 2pm. She made it — from Calcutta, 50km away — there a little past 4, when the sun was almost kissing the horizon.

“This is winter and dusk descends early. Many of our sympathisers had returned home,” said a leader who accompanied Mamata.

Sources said a family eng-agement held her back in the city.

If Mamata had drawn close to 10,000 people on December 2, there were hardly 2,000 in the audience at Tapasi Malik’s village Bajemelia today.

Many of those who stayed on were not happy with what they heard. When Mamata said she would not allow Tata Motors to set up its plant, the applause was stiffled.

Bikash Koley, who left the ground even as the Trinamul leader spoke, said: “This was the 20th Mamata rally that I attended. She repeated the same things that she had said earlier. I didn’t like it.”

Maya Rani Koley, who led the movement against land acquisition for the car plant, said: “How can we tell the people that the car plant would not come up? She has not been able to stop work.”

Maya Rani, whose 1.5 acres were acquired for the project, did not attend today’s rally.

By a local Trinamul leader’s admission, “Mamata has come here over 30 times since September 2006”, when she was arrested for laying a nightlong siege to the block office. “But work on the project is going on round the clock. People are getting disillusioned.”

Eighteen-year-old Tapasi was raped, strangulated and set on fire. Her charred body was found at the project site on this day, a year ago. She was at the forefront of the movement against land acquisition for the project.

Mamata’s December 2 rally was held at Gopalnagar-Sahanapara, 5km from Bajemelia.

A policeman who was on duty at both venues, said: “Today’s was a very poor turnout by Mamata’s standards.”

A Trinamul leader said squabbling among two local leaders, Becharam Manna and Raja Bhaduri, also resulted in the poor turnout.

“The duo had been assigned the task of bringing in the crowds.”

The body of Sankar Patra, the daily labourer who committed suicide at Khaserbheri yesterday, was brought to the rally venue on the way to the burning ghat. Mamata placed a wreath on the body.