The talk in Bhawanipore in south Kolkata,from where Mamata Banerjee is contesting a bypoll to enter the Assembly,is not about who will win the seat. It is about the margin of victory for the chief minister.
At the neighbourhood addas every evening,the margin of victory for Mamata who is contesting for an Assembly seat for the first time as all her previous electoral battles since 1984 were for Parliament is an intense subject of debate. With campaigning ending on Friday,the debate has only gone louder on whether the CPM candidate,Nandini Mukherjee,a professor at Jadavpur University,will forfeit her deposit in the September 25 bypoll.
Mamata had skipped the Assembly contest in April-May on grounds that she needed to campaign for the party to oust the Left. Her goal achieved,she needed to get elected within six months to stay the Chief Minister. Her party man and Cabinet colleague,Subrata Baksi made room,resigning from the seat,which is her home constituency.
Her rival,a PhD holder from Manchester University and a committed CPM cadre since 1986,said the fight is not for a win. It is being fought on an ideological plane. Mukherjee agreed to the contest when many party veterans refused to fight the Lefts most formidable adversary.
At a street corner meeting barely 72 hours before voting,Mukherjee explained what this contest means to about 100 comrades,one of the smallest-ever gathering considering the contests importance. It was a throwback to the 1960s when a lone Marxist campaigner would speak at his highest pitch with a microphone in hand and an audience of about a dozen.
Still,Mukherjee said: Each vote of yours would be a vote of protest. Protest against the promised change by the new rulers and what the people have actually got. We are listening to Rabindra Sangeet at every street crossing now at a cost while the bustees are cr ying for water. We are listening about Kolkata becoming London,when basic needs of the poor are not met.
Where is the change in hospitals after so many visits by the CM? Surely,130 days are not a time frame to judge… but one is getting a sense of the direction in governance. In this time span,the emerging scenario is one of directionless movement. Instability and idiosyncrasy have been the hallmarks of this one womans autocratic rule, she said.
Her words,however,may not be too convincing even to the Left,which has seen several cadres shifting allegiance since the last polls. Perhaps the most dramatic example is Narayan Jain,the CPM candidate last time. Jain is today a die-hard Mamata supporter,having campaigned aggressively for the Trinamool Congress chief in this bypoll.
A CPM local committee member said,The party will be happy if it can latch on to the percentage it had got last time (about 28%). Anything more is beyond the partys expectations.
In the poll run-up,Mamata has held only one public rally on Thursday. All these years she emphasised the failure of the Left and banked on negative votes. Tis time,she talked about success stories. From Singur to Gorkhaland,we have solved the problems in three months. I have sanctioned 231,000 new posts. We will do more because we are into politics not for gain and power, she said.
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