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Citadel under threat, Adhir Chowdhury calls for renaming Murshidabad University

Last year, BJP won the crucial Berhampore Assembly seat. With an eye on 2024 LS polls, the Congress leader now wants the institution to be named after its founder Raja Krishnath.

Adhir Chowdhury, who is the state Congress president as well as the party’s leader in the Lok Sabha, has been elected to Parliament from the Berhampore constituency since 1999.

He was once one of the most influential political leaders in West Bengal and Berhampore in Murshidabad district was considered his fiefdom, where almost nothing could happen without his say-so. But, Adhir Chowdhury’s powers are waning and his recent demand to rename Murshidabad University after Raja Krishnath, a prominent historical figure in Murshidabad history, illustrates his concerns about his own electoral fate in the next Lok Sabha polls.

Chowdhury, who is the state Congress president as well as the party’s leader in the Lok Sabha, has been elected to Parliament from the Berhampore constituency since 1999. His first victory from the constituency was a surprise since it ended the Revolutionary Socialist Party’s (RSP) stranglehold over the seat. The RSP had won the seat continuously from 1952 onwards.

The influence of the 63-year-old in the area is illustrated by the Congress’s sweep of all the seven Assembly segments in the Berhampore Lok Sabha constituency in the 2016 Assembly elections despite the Trinamool Congress’s (TMC) dominance in other parts of the state. Chowdhury’s popularity can also be gauged by the 80,000-vote margin with which he retained his parliamentary seat in the last Lok Sabha elections. Both the TMC and the BJP, which recorded its best-ever performance in the Lok Sabha elections from the state, failed to break into Chowdhury’s citadel.

This Congress stronghold was built over the decades with the support of the Muslim community, which is the majority religious group in Murshidabad district. Over the decades, Chowdhury is known to have helped out people in times of their need, whether it be during health emergencies or other financial crises.

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But, in a jolt to Chowdhury, the Congress lost all the seven Assembly segments in the Berhampore Lok Sabha constituency in the Assembly polls last year. The party failed to win a single Assembly seat in Murshidabad district and worryingly, its vote share dropped, especially in the minority community. But the biggest shock was the result in the Berhampore Assembly constituency that elected the BJP’s Subrata Maitra (Kanchan). The TMC’s Naru Gopal Mukherjee came second while then-incumbent MLA Manoj Chakraborty of the Congress finished third.

The Berhampore constituency has given sizable leads to Adhir Chowdhury and elected a Congress MLA from 1991 till Maitra broke through. The BJP’s success was owing to increasing polarisation in the border district. According to political observers and party insiders, this political reality explains Chowdhury’s push to rename the university after Raja Krishnath.

“If Adhir loses the 2024 Lok Sabha election, his political career will be almost over. He is now desperate to win and is preparing for the election. He is probably going to face the toughest election of his career,” said a senior congress leader close to the Congress MP.

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The TMC-led government upgraded Krishnath College in Berhampore last year and renamed Murshidabad University. In the letter to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday, Chowdhury wrote, “Krishnath College of Berhampore is a renowned institution of higher learning in West Bengal. Upgrading this college to a university is a very welcome step by the Government of West Bengal. However, dropping the name of Raja Krishnath in this newly constituted Murshidabad University has robbed it of its local sentimental value.”

Demanding that the government revert to the original name, the MP went on to write, “As you are aware, Raja Krishnath was a legend and a hero of the Bengal renaissance. He dreamt of establishing an institution of higher learning and donated the entire land for the cause. He is a great source of inspiration for the local youth of West Bengal. It is a source of great pride for the students of West Bengal to study in a college/university established by Raja Krishnath who was one of the greatest heroes of the awakening of West Bengal.”

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First published on: 03-07-2022 at 08:43:08 pm
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