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In their 20s, the new Marxist candidates
Sheik Ibrahim Ali – 25
‘Firebrand’ leader unfazed by threats
From the CPM, a party identified with veteran politicians, comes the youngest candidate not only in its history but also in the line-up across parties for West Bengal. Sheik Ibrahim Ali, 25, is contesting in Tamluk against sitting MP Subhendu Adhikary, the Trinamool Congress heavyweight of East Midnapore. Ibrahim replaces former CPM MP Lakshman Seth who is facing a number of criminal cases since the Nandigram police firing.
Many believe Ibrahim is being sacrificed but he is confident. “The party has selected me because it knows my capability. I have been given this responsibility because I will not run away for fear of attacks from the ruling party,” said the young aspirant.
An MA in Bengali from Vidyasagar University, he started as a student leader in his college in Panskura and is now the SFI district president and a panchayat member at Gobindapur in Panskura. The panchayat has 22 seats and is ruled by the Left with 16 seats.
“When we fought the panchayat elections, the candidates were threatened several times. Hundreds were evicted from their villages. But we stood strong,” said Ibrahim. In the past one year, he has been charged with five criminal cases, including rioting, extortion and arson. “When the ruling party failed to intimidate me, they started slapping false cases,” said Ibrahim.
To his seniors, Ibrahim is a “firebrand comrade” who can help regain lost ground in East Midnapore where the party has been struggling since the Nandigram movement. “Look at Tamluk. See what the ruling party has done to it. Look at Haldia. Most of the operators have left. No investor wants to come here. I have enough issues to campaign on,” said Ibrahim, son of a small-time contractor in a small village in east Midnapore.
“We wanted a youth leader, a Muslim comrade and a strong personality who can fight against the TMC strongmen,”said Prashanta Pradhan, district CPM secretary. On the cases against Ibrahim, Pradhan said, “He is an educated comrade and has a fiery image. So, our rivals lodged false cases.”
Meanwhile, the Trinamool mocks Ibrahim. “After Nandigram, the CPM could not find a capable politician to be fielded against Subhendu. That is why they have picked a naïve novice from a village,” said Sisir Adhikary, the TMC district president and an MP.