In Kharagpur, which is going to bypoll on November 25, Congress posters everywhere say “Masterji is perfect substitute for chachaji”. This time, the Congress has fielded a teacher, Chittaranjan Mondol, banking on the popularity of its veteran leader and 10-time MLA late Gyan Singh Sohanpal.
If you are in Kharagpur and seeking direction of “chachaji’s” house, anybody in the town will direct you straight to Bungalow Side area where former minister Sohanpal’s house is situated.
One can still feel his presence in the railway township in West Midnapore district even as he died in August 2017 at the age of 92.
Despite family roots in Punjab’s Amritsar, chacha belonged to Kharagpur since birth. In his six-decade old political career, he never faced defeat in the West Bengal Assembly elections since 1969, barring 1977 — when the Left Front came to power in the state — and 2016 polls, the last in his electoral career — when the BJP took over the Congress bastion of Kharagpur Sadar seat.
He also had two ministerial stints under former chief ministers Prafulla Chandra Ghosh and Siddhartha Shankar Ray.
He held the Congress stronghold even during Left Front’s rule from 1977 to 2011 when he enjoyed equal respect from veteran CPI(M) leaders, including former chief ministers Jyoti Basu and Buddhadev Bhattacharya.
In the last elections of his career, Sohanpal was defeated by state BJP president Dilip Ghosh.
With the seat falling vacant after Ghosh won the Lok Sabha polls from Medinipur seat earlier this year, Kharagpur Sadar is now gearing up for bypoll on November 25.
The local residents say no one can replace “chachaji”.
“In the last three years, he (Ghosh) proved that he would never be a replacement of chachaji. We always got chachaji whenever we needed him,” said a local resident Bhima Rao.
Sohanpal’s sister-in-law Dharamjit Kaur said his honesty was his USP. “He never differentiated among people. His door was always open for everyone.”
His nephew Harmit Singh said people of Kharagpur always loved him as chachaji delivered on his promises.
Hence, keeping Sohanpal’s popularity in mind, the Congress has chosen Mondol as its candidate against Trinamool Congress’s Pradip Sarkar and BJP’s Prem Chandra Jha. Also, the Congress slogan this time is “Chacha ke garh mein Chitto (Chittaranjan in Chahcha’s stronghold)”.
Mondol evokes Chittaranjan every time during campaigning: “The synonym of Kharagpur is chachaji. You cannot relate development of Kharagpur without chachaji. Like that, everywhere in Kharagpur, my students are there. They and I will fulfill chachaji’s dream.”
The TMC also wanted to give ticket to someone who “matches chachaji’s charisma”. A senior leader of the TMC said, “Chairman of Kharagpur Municiplity, Pradip Sarkar, is choice of Prashant Kishore’s team. They asked us to give the ticket to such a person who can match chachaji’s charisma.”
But, a section of BJP is sceptical amidst the saffron wave, especially after the Lok Sabha polls. A rebel BJP leader said Ghosh barely visited Kharagpur after he defeated chachaji. “The people of Karagpur will never forget that.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines