At a bylane in Dum Dum, a roadshow is on. An elderly woman comes out of her house and gives the red salute to CPM candidate Asim Dasgupta, standing on a vehicle and waving to people. Dasgupta, seeing the woman, a former CPM member, gets down from the vehicle and shakes hand with her and then talks to her for a minute.
“People are talking of the BJP making a dent in the vote bank of the Congress and the Trinamool Congress, which will serve the Left well,” says Dasgupta, an economist who studied at MIT and later taught at Calcutta University. “But I am not banking on that. If the elections are free and fair, we will surely win, though we understand the vote share of the BJP will increase. We will win because those who left us and voted for our opponents in the 2009 Lok Sabha and 2011 assembly elections have now come back to us,’’ said Dasgupta, finance minister for the Left Front government for more than 20 years.
Despite the fact that BJP candidate Tapan Sikdar won from here twice, in 1998 and 1999, and the BJP is indeed gaining across the state, Trinamool candidate Saugata Roy says his main rival is still Asim Dasgupta and not Sikdar. “In 2009 Sikdar got 55,000 votes and I don’t think there will be any significant rise in his share,” Roy says.
Sikdar is fighting not only his opponents in the poll fray but also his health and dissension in his party. A few days ago, he had to appear at a press conference to end a rumour that he had died. “These rumours give a person a longer time on earth,’’ Sikdar said.
Dum Dum is one of the constituencies that the BJP is aiming to win. Sikdar, a former minister of state in two NDA governments, first won from the constituency in 1998 by 1.39 lakh votes and then in 1999 by 1.36 votes. In 2004 he lost to Amitava Nandi of the CPM by 91,000 votes. He lost again in 2009, polling 55,000 votes.
“This time poriborton at the Centre is our sole objective and we are working to fulfil that. The Congress has destroyed the country socially, economically. In the first UPA government the CPM was their accomplice and in the second it was the Trinamool Congress. It is the NDA under Narendra Modi that will be able to take the country,’’ Sikdar says, sitting at his house at Shyam Bazaar.
In 1998 when he first contested from Dum Dum, he had a formidable opponent in the CPM’s Nirmal Chatterjee and not even his closest well-wishers expected him to win. In fact he left the counting centre, alleging massive rigging, in the midst of counting and said he would challenge the verdict in the court. It went in his favour and nobody went to court.
In 1999, Sikdar, a former president of BJP state unit, defeated Anil Bhattacharya, CPM leader from its teachers’ cell. “In 2004 there was a wave against the TMC-BJP alliance and in 2009 there was an anti-CPM wave that brought Mamata Banerjee to power. And now it is the anti-Congress wave that is sweeping the country. People want to get rid of the corrupt, anti-people Congress,’’ Sikdar said.