Violence in Nandigram, triggered by police clampdowns on protests over acquisition of land by the government for industrial use, is causing a rift both in the coalition state government and among the alliance partners at the Centre.
Some of the constituent parties in the Left Front, which rules West Bengal, are toying with the idea of withdrawing from the government if the police force that muscled its way into Nandigram on Wednesday is not withdrawn immediately, sources in these parties who did not wish to be identified, said. Nandigram is 160km from the state capital Kolkata, and the site of a proposed special economic zone (SEZ)—a manufacturing hub that offers tax incentives to companies.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led government will face questions from its coalition partners—the Forward Bloc, the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) and the Communist Party of India (CPI)—which have become uncomfortable with the government’s actions.
Many of them—CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan and West Bengal minister for public works Kshiti Goswami among others—were scathing in their reactions to Wednesday’s violence.
“The police action will not only tarnish the image of the Left Front, but the survival of the Front will be at stake,” Goswami said on Wednesday. According to sources, party members may consider exiting the government, rather than the Front.
The situation is not very different in New Delhi. Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad, whose pary is a member of the ruling coalition United Progressive Alliance (UPA), has said that his party will be taking up the Nandigram issue at the UPA meeting next week (23 March).
RJD is only in favour of projects such as SEZs coming up in barren and unproductive land, he said. It will be sending a delegation to Nandigram to assess the situation.
Mamata Banerjee, leader of West Bengal’s main Opposition party Trinamul Congress, is demanding the resignation of the Buddhadeb Bhattacharya government and imposition of President’s rule in the state.
In New Delhi, the leader of the Opposition, L.K. Advani, has sought a governor’s report on the incident from both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as well as Union home minister Shivraj Patil.
West Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi has already expressed horror at the incident.
In his official statement on the floor of the state assembly, Bhattacharya stood his ground that the police entry was necessary to reinstate the rule of law. “For two and a half months, the administration could not function at Nandigram,” he told a House boycotted by the protesting Opposition. He still maintains that the SEZ will not come up at Nandigram if the local people do not want it. The police entry was not for land acquisition, he said, adding that he hoped the people would cooperate with the administration and there would not be more trouble. A police camp has been set up at Sonachura, one of the villages in Nandigram.
But not everybody is convinced. A division of the Kolkata high court has ordered a CBI inquiry into the violence unleashed in Nandigram and asked the state government to file an affidavit detailing the circumstances under which the police firing was ordered. The administration has been asked to allow non-governmental organizations and medical teams to reach Nandigram. Bhattacharya welcomed the court order, saying he too, is contemplating a judicial inquiry.
(PTI contributed to this story)