Will Sandeshkhali Violence become Nandigram for Mamata in 2024 elections?

In the midst of ongoing political storms, Mamata Banerjee faces the intricate task of navigating through the Sandeshkhali crisis and preserving her political legacy against the BJP's determined opposition.

Syed Hassan Kazim
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Mamata's Nandigram

Will Shahjahan Shaikh prove to be TMC’s nemesis? The local TMC leader accused of gangraping scores of women and land grabbing in West Bengal's Sandeshkhali village was being shielded by the party in power. He was apprehended and handed over to the CBI at Calcutta High Court’s directives. The incident has completely exposed partisan politics of the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC while at the same time bringing to light lawlessness being perpetrated by the ruling party leaders. 

The Sandeshkhali incident is likely to do to Mamata Banerjee’s government what the Singur agitation led by her did to the 34-year-long rule of left parties in the state. But, the West Bengal CM has rubbished the BJP’s attempts to draw parallels between anti-land acquisition agitations in Nandigram and Singur in the past and those currently taking place in Sandeshkhali, insisting that the two cannot be compared.

Emphasizing the uniqueness of each situation and pledging to avoid bloodshed, the West Bengal CM, however, was careful not to directly name Sandeshkhali while making that observation.

The historic downfall of the 34-year-long CPI(M) government in West Bengal unfolded in the tumultuous episodes of Singur and Nandigram. Mamata Banerjee, the leader of the Trinamool Congress (TMC), seized victory, riding on her fervent opposition to the leftist government's controversial land acquisition policies. 

Her powerful slogan, "Maa, Maati, Manush" (Mother, land, people), echoed the sentiments of those resisting land grabs.

Mamata's Political Triumph: From Opposition to Governance

The spirited protests led by Mamata Banerjee, then in opposition, targeted the CPI(M) government's attempts to acquire fertile land for Tata Motors' Nano project in Singur. This prolonged movement from 2006 to 2008, against the alleged forcible takeover of vital agricultural land, catapulted Mamata into the Chief Minister's seat in the subsequent election.

Simultaneously, Nandigram witnessed a similar uprising, with farmers opposing land acquisition for a chemical hub. Mamata's leadership during the 25-day hunger strike further solidified her image as a champion of the downtrodden and a fierce advocate against land grabs.

Despite Mamata Banerjee's consistent electoral success, the recent Sandeshkhali debacle poses a significant challenge to her political supremacy.

What is Sandeshkhali Inccident? 

The agitation in Sandeshkhali began as a protest against forcible land grabs, where farmers claimed that their agricultural lands were converted into fisheries without proper compensation. A viral video highlighted grievance of land being grabbed in the name of lease, leading to uncultivable fields and threats when demanding overdue payments. Accusations of sexual assault have also thrust this region in the Sunderbans into the political spotlight, potentially becoming an antagonist in Mamata's leadership.

BJP Strategy for 2024 Elections in West Bengal

The recent visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Sandeshkhali on March 6 underscores the BJP's commitment to challenging Mamata's leadership. BJP leaders, including Sukanta Majumdar and Suvendu Adhikari, have intensified pressure, employing tactics reminiscent of Mamata's earlier protests in Singur and Nandigram. The BJP's involvement, including highway sit-ins, reflects a strategic emulation of Mamata's successful political career.

In a parallel to the historical sequence of Nandigram following Singur, accusations of land grabs are surfacing not only in Sandeshkhali but also in Howrah's Panchla. This unfolding situation in 2024 adds a layer of complexity to Mamata's political landscape.

In the midst of these political storms, Mamata Banerjee faces the intricate task of navigating through the Sandeshkhali crisis and preserving her political legacy against the BJP's determined opposition.