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Sunday, April 18, 2021

West Bengal: BJP Bankura face is a daily wager’s wife, without toilet, running water

A constituency reserved for Scheduled Castes, Saltora was won by the Trinamool’s Swapan Barui the last two times, by a margin of over 10,000 votes.

Written by Ravik Bhattacharya , Amitava Chakraborty | Bankura |
Updated: March 18, 2021 11:49:02 am
Chandana with her husband Sraban. Since she was declared the BJP’s candidate from Saltora, her in-laws have been pitching in to look after her three children. (Express Photo: Partha Paul)

Three goats, three cows (one of them gifted by her parents), a mud house with no running water or toilet, and Rs 31, 985 in cash and bank deposits — this is what Chandana Bauri, 30, the BJP candidate for Saltora Assembly seat in West Bengal’s Bankura, and one of the poorest nominees in the poll race, has by way of assets.

Her husband Sraban is a mason who works as a daily wager earning about Rs 400 for a day’s work. During the monsoon season, when labourers are hard to find, Chandana works as a helper with him. Both MNREGA card holders, they have three children.

Till not so long ago, Chandana only dreamed of having a toilet. “We have to walk to the nearby field to relieve ourselves. Last year we got the first instalment of the (Pradhan Mantri) Awas Yojana-Gramin of Rs 60,000 and made two concrete rooms,” she says.

While Chandana is a senior district BJP member, the ticket is a big leap for the 30-year-old. She leaves her house in Kelai village in Gangajalghati block by 8 am every day in a matador, dressed in a saffron sari covered in lotus print, for campaigning — often taking her son along. “The Trinamool is corrupt,” Chandana says. “It has not done any development work, pocketed all the money that Modiji sent for welfare schemes. From toilet to house schemes, people have to give cut money to Trinamool men.”

Chandana Bauri campaigns in Bankura on March 12, 2021. (Express Photo: Partha Paul)

A constituency reserved for Scheduled Castes, Saltora was won by the Trinamool’s Swapan Barui the last two times, by a margin of over 10,000 votes. This time, the party has fielded a new candidate, Santosh Kumar Mandal.

Says Chandana, “I got to know about my nomination on March 8 from locals. They saw the news on television… Ami gorib ghorer meye (I come from a poor family). By nominating me, the BJP has shown that financial status is not important to become a leader.”

Sraban though has dabbled in politics before. A Forward Bloc supporter, he faced harassment from Trinamool workers after the party came to power in 2011, leading the family to join the BJP. Chandana then rose through the ranks to become the general secretary of the Mahila Morcha of the Uttar Gangajalghati Mondol in 2016, and then one of the general secretaries of Bankura district. While Srabon dropped out after Class 8, Chandana has studied till Madhyamik (secondary).

Chandana’s new role means the family has had to adapt. “Earlier, I would wake up at 6 am, cook, go fetch drinking water and do household chores. In the evenings, I helped my children study. In spite of this hectic schedule, I found time for party work. Now, my in-laws are taking care of the children,” Chandana says.

Srabon hopes the new government is able to get them jobs nearer home. “I often have to travel out of the district. I have worked in Santragachi (in Howrah district), Kolkata and Assam.”

While Chandana is a senior district BJP member, the ticket is a big leap for the 30-year-old. (Express Photo: Partha Paul)

Pointing to the chairs lined in front of the pucca house that is half-finished, Chandana’s father-in-law Sunil, who made a living making plates of sal leaves, says, “Only four chairs belong to us. The rest have been brought by villagers and party workers.”

The two rooms in the house hold an aluminium box, a table, a ceiling fan, wooden planks put together for a bed, and school books. Chandana says she will ensure her children complete their studies. “I wanted to study. But my father passed away a month before the Madhyamik exam. Then I got married. Just before the Class 11 final, my husband fell ill, but I passed. While I was in Class 12, I got pregnant and dropped out,” she says.

One of her campaign themes, is the Trinamool government’s “failure” to maintain law and order. “There are rapes every day here. The BJP is a woman-friendly party,” Chandana tells villagers.

From her matador, decorated with pictures of PM Modi, blares a song — Sobar sathe BJP (The BJP is with everyone).

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