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West Bengal: PM Modi to visit Sandeshkhali, may launch LS poll campaign

West Bengal: PM Modi to visit Sandeshkhali, may launch LS poll campaign

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Virendra Pandit 


New Delhi: As the Lok Sabha elections approach—the Election Commission is expected to announce the poll schedule next week for the April-May exercise—Prime Minister Narendra Modi is taking the battle to the Opposition’s camp, starting with West Bengal, its strongest citadel, from where he is likely to blow the bugle for the parliamentary elections.

The media reported on Friday that he will be in West Bengal twice next week. On March 1 and 2, he will address public meetings in Arambagh and Krishnagar. Again, on March 6, he will visit the North 24 Parganas district where the restive Sandeshkhali is located and which has been hogging headlines across India for weeks because of the reign of terror unleashed by some TMC leaders.

Reports suggest that Sandeshkhali could become West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Bannerji’s Waterloo the way Singur became the graveyard for her predecessor CPM government led by Buddhadeb Bhattacharya after 2008.

An indication of the oppressed and exploited people’s uprising in strife-torn Sandeshkhali came on Thursday when hundreds of enraged villagers forcibly reclaimed a century-old playground grabbed two years ago by the local kingpin Sheikh Shahjahan, the controversial fugitive TMC leader now wanted by the Enforcement Directorate and the paramilitary forces who suspect he is being protected by the ruling party leaders.

The angry villagers broke the locks of the main door and ‘liberated’ the playground as police and local TMC MLA Sukumar Mahata looked on. In the face of strong reactions, some of them even helped the rebels, the media reported. The villagers planted trees along the playground’s boundary and played football to send out the message that Shahjahan’s reign of terror had ended.

After liberating the playground, they also whitewashed the board proclaiming “Sheikh Shahjahan Fans Club” from the gate, and hung festive balloons.

“The erstwhile zamindars of Sandeshkhali had donated the land and named it Rishi Aurobindo Mission Maidan,” a villager said. “Shahjahan’s men captured the ground in November 2022 on the pretext of holding a football tournament. After that, its main gate was locked and the ground became the property of ‘The Sheikh Shahjahan Fan Club’. Our children lost their right to play there.”

“But today, we have got it back… This is the beginning of the end for Shahjahan. We have had enough.”

Sandeshkhali hit the headlines when the Enforcement Directorate team, that arrived to raid Shahajahan’s home in connection with the PDS scam, was attacked by a huge mob. While Shahjahan has been on the run since then, his accomplices Hazra and Sardar were arrested on multiple charges, including gang rape.

As the tales of Shahjahan’s depredations tumbled out after the Thursday uprising, TMC MLA Mahata tried to defend the fugitive outlaw. “No one had captured the ground. Shahjahan organized a football tournament, named after himself, that is why the outer wall was painted with his name,” he defended the perpetrator. But the villagers dismissed his claims.

“With the BJP trying to capitalize on Sandeshkhali in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, our top leadership is seeking detailed reports from the area to address the grievances,” A TMC leader in Kolkata was quoted as saying.

However, the TMC’s attempts at damage control did not yield results.

When Mahata and the police reached the playground, the angry villagers confronted them and questioned their motives.

“Why have you come today? Where were you when our land was grabbed? Why did your leaders torture us?” asked a woman, covering her face with a towel.

Mahata and other Trinamul leaders tried to pacify the villagers, requesting them to “keep faith” with the party and Mamata Banerjee.

“The party doesn’t want the BJP to gain politically because of the misdeeds of a handful of people. We will try our best to address the popular concerns,” the TMC leader.



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