Madan Mitra – the jailed Trinamool Congress leader and an absentee minister in his constituency of Kamarhati in the northern outskirts of Kolkata –faces the test of the ballot today as West Bengal goes into the fourth phase of polls. In jail for more than a year as a prime accused in the Saradha chit fund case, Madan Mitra – despite his absence – has nursed the constituency all through – courtesy his family and a large number of party leaders loyal to him. Mitra appeared to be ahead in this unique contest as he remote controlled his entire election machinery through family and friends.
Madan Mitra is not the first candidate in the West Bengal (WB) state assembly poll to have faced the contest from behind bars. In fact, the present West Bengal Pradesh Congress president Adhir Chowdhury had fought the 1996 state assembly polls from prison. Jailed on an alleged murder charge, he had won with a massive margin.
The political wheel turns full circles as he pioneered the Congress-CPM alliance in this election in WB and is fighting the Trinamool Congress.
Political circles recall how Adhir Chowdhury’s photo was placed on a podium like a “martyr” in the 1996 polls and his speeches, recorded earlier, would be run for hours in Nabagram constituency in Murshidabad.
There is one other instance of a contest from jail in the state assembly polls and this one was a massive win, as well.
Santosh Rana – the well known name and face of the Naxalite movement of the ‘70s. Rana was jailed in 1972 on sedition charges. In 1977 he filed nomination from jail form Gopiballavpur in West Midnapore and was returned with a massive victory.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Rana recalled – “In 1977, it was an election in which I did not have a single agent in any of the booth, no political worker to work for me. My opponent was a CPM nominee. I was just about 27-28 and bubbling with enthusiasm for the Naxalite movement. After the win, the Left Front government however, treated me as a political prisoner and I released from jail on July 11, 1977.”
If these past records are any indications to go by, Madan Mitra too, is on a solid footing to win for a second time. A visit to his constituency revealed the depth of “sympathy” for this charismatic, popular leader in a large part of the constituency. But it is more than just sympathy in the lanes and bylanes of Kamarhati where Mitra is virtually worshipped like a hero. From Ward 1 to Ward 7 in Kamarhati, the residents are largely from the Muslim community.
Kamarhati has 60,000 plus Muslim voters and they are the deciding factor for a win in Kamarhati. A majority of them are on Mitra’s side.
Madan Mitra’s fight was made easier when Mamata Banerjee attending a rally a day before told the electoate: “In all the 294 constituencies in Bengal people will be voting for me. In Kamarhati too, you will vote for me. Madan will win,” she said.
The CPM nominee, Manas Mukherjee who lost to Madan Mitra last time by a huge margin of over 34,000 votes, banks on Congress support and the alleged stigma that he feels attaches to Mitra’s image following the Saradha scam. BJP’s Krishanu Mitra is a young contestant from this constituency this time and may help Madan Mitra by pulling in substantial votes and thereby splitting the opposition votes.