‘We will bring the Tatas back to Singur’: Locket Chatterjee

The BJP candidate for the Hooghly Lok Sabha seat says the Trinamool Congress has “done no development in the region”.

Published : May 04, 2024 15:42 IST - 7 MINS READ

In 2019, the BJP pulled a surprise when actress-turned-politician Locket Chatterjee wrested the Hooghly Lok Sabha seat from the Trinamool Congress.

In 2019, the BJP pulled a surprise when actress-turned-politician Locket Chatterjee wrested the Hooghly Lok Sabha seat from the Trinamool Congress. | Photo Credit: Jayanta Shaw

In many ways, Singur, part of the Hooghly Lok Sabha constituency in West Bengal, is synonymous with the rise of Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress. It was here in 2006 that Mamata staged her prolonged movement against the then Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front’s forcible acquisition of agricultural land for setting up Tata Motors’ small car factory. While Mamata’s often violent protests forced the Tatas to relocate their prestigious project, which was expected to act as a harbinger of industrial revival in investment-starved West Bengal, they nevertheless acted as a catalyst for the Trinamool’s rise in the State, culminating in Mamata assuming power in 2011.

In 2019, the BJP pulled a surprise when actress-turned-politician Locket Chatterjee wrested the seat from the Trinamool and even secured a lead in the Singur Assembly segment, which for so long had been unflinching in its support for Mamata. However, in the 2021 Assembly election, the Trinamool re-established its political supremacy in Hooghly district, making the upcoming election a challenge for Locket Chatterjee. In an exclusive interview with Frontline, Chatterjee discusses her efforts to get the Tatas to invest again in Singur and explains why the 2021 Assembly election result is no indication of things to come. Excerpts:

In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, you had a lead in five of the seven Assembly segments that fall in the Hooghly Lok Sabha constituency, including Singur. In two of them (Balagarh and Saptagram), the BJP won more than 51 per cent of the votes. Yet, the BJP lost in all of them in the 2021 Assembly election. Why was that? And why do you think you will get back those votes this time?

In 2014, we won two seats—Asansol and Darjeeling. In 2019, we fought very hard; more than 200 people were killed during the panchayat elections—our journey was through all this. In 2019, there was a wave for Modi ji, and people saw the BJP as an alternative to the Trinamool, and we won 18 seats.

In 2021, we seriously thought we would form the government—”Iss baar 200 paar” (this time, crossing 200) was the target our Home Minister, Amit Shah, had set for us. But we could not meet that target for a number of reasons. Perhaps the people of Bengal depended too much on Mamata Banerjee. They may have thought, “Let’s give her another opportunity.” After two terms, she had put forward more promises for her third term—promised to do things she could not complete in the previous two terms. She promised she would bring different kinds of businesses into the State. In her 12 years in power, she has not been able to rope in any industry for Bengal, and people wanted to give her another chance. The votes turned on the different welfare schemes she had introduced, like Lakshmir Bhandar and others.

The people realised their mistake after 2021. Between 2021 and 2024, some of the most important ministers of the cabinet were behind bars on charges of corruption. There is corruption in ration disbursal—something never heard of before. Three crore fake ration cards were found. Where did the rice for three crore ration cards go? Who picked them up? There is no trace of it. They have been sent to Bangladesh, as it is getting increasingly clear from the CBI’s inquiry. The Minister in charge of ration, Jyoti Priya Mallick, is in prison now. The Education Minister, Partha Chatterjee, is in prison in connection with various job scams. Three people from Hooghly too are behind bars for their part in the scams. Most recently, there was the Calcutta High Court ruling on the School Service Commission recruitment scam, in which more than 25,000 people lost their jobs. There has not been any challenge from the government’s end against this judgment. They are not moving to another court and saying, “This is wrong.” All that the Chief Minister is saying is “I am with you”. After bringing disaster upon them, she is saying she is with them.

Then there was the Sandeshkhali episode, that came as an earthquake. We have seen extreme cases of women coming under attack. Unknown to everybody, the women of that island were at the mercy of Sheikh Sahajan for the past 10-12 years. Prior to that, Sheikh Shahjahan was with the CPI(M) when they were in power in the State for 34 years. The moment Sheikh Shahjahan was taken out of the region, the women burst forth with their allegations. Every day the individual story of these women would come out in the open. The police accepted a case of gang-rape. Investigations on those cases are ongoing. The Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation are probing the issues.

So, the situation of 2021 is already turning around. What happened in 2021 will not take place in 2024.

Actress-turned-politician Locket Chatterjee, who is the BJP candidate for the Hooghly Lok Sabha seat, believes there is a strong undercurrent in favour of the BJP in West Bengal. | Video Credit: Interview by Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay; Camera by Jayanta Shaw; Editing by Samson Ronald K.

But Sandeshkhali is quite far from Hooghly; how much do you think it will impact your constituency?

There are many Sandeshkhalis in West Bengal where women are silently enduring torture by the likes of Sheikh Shahjahan. These women want the Shahjahans and other mafia goons in their locality to be arrested. They will be happiest if these people are taken out of their localities, so they too can protest against what has been happening to them. We are continually saying that women who are suffering the same plight as the Sandeshkhali women should raise their voices through the EVM boxes.

Also Read | Trinamool, BJP locked in an intense, evenly-matched battle in West Bengal

The increase in the allowance to women under the Lakshmir Bhandar scheme from Rs.500 to Rs.1000 for women of the general caste, and Rs.1200 for SC/ST women, is being seen as an effective way of neutralising the adverse impact of the Sandeshkhali episode. How are you countering the freshly-hiked Lakshmir Bhandar’s impact?

I would never want Lakshmir Bhandar to be stopped. There has been no development in Bengal, so the government is giving out freebies. After making their future dark, they are buying votes from the people this way. Put two alternatives in front of a mother—would you like a free Rs.500 every month? Or would you like your son to have a job? Since this government cannot provide a future for them, they are trying to divert their attention by giving out freebies; but they will not do any solid development work for them.

“I have realised there is a strong undercurrent in favour of the BJP. This time we will get more than the 18 seats we got last time [in 2019].”

Singur was supposed to have become a symbol of industrial resurgence in Bengal. But that never happened. How much is industry and investment featuring in your campaigns?

The moment we come to power, we will bring the Tatas back. The land in Singur [where Tata Motors was supposed to have set up its small car factory] has become industrial land. Farming will no longer be possible there. She [Mamata Banerjee] is pointlessly saying that she will create a hub for the farmers, and do something new out there, but she has done no development in the region. We have spoken to farmers there; they also want industry. They don’t want their children to become farmers. They want them to work in factories, learn engineering, etc.

The Tatas have been betrayed. They were forced to move their project after completing 90 per cent of the work. The Tatas themselves have said that until there is a BJP government in the State, they will not invest anything here. We want to bring Tata back to Singur, and extend to them the respect they deserve.

Your opponent from the Trinamool is actress Rachna Banerjee, an old friend of yours, and a co-star in many films. Are you a little uncomfortable having her as an opponent in such a high-stakes battle?

Not at all. She was a friend, and will remain a friend. This is a political battle. We have no personal differences. The people of Hooghly are educated and politically aware. They will decide who to vote for; but that will not affect my relationship with her.

Also Read | West Bengal: Will CAA tip the scales?

Realistically, how many seats do you think the BJP will win this time?

We were given a target of 35 seats. At that time, we wondered how we were going to meet this target. But now, as I am travelling around, I have realised there is a strong undercurrent in favour of the BJP. This I have seen in the rural parts of my constituency. This time we will get more than the 18 seats we got last time.

+ SEE all Stories
Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment