Seventy-year old Lakshmi Devi has never seen, or heard, roads being washed in Shyamapore, a village at one end of Bankura district, a region perennially thirsty in summer.
On Tuesday afternoon, the local panchayat authorities washed a three km stretch of the metalled road winding through the village, to protect Trinamool Congress candidate Moon Moon Sen and her two daughters Riya and Raima, from the dust, when women waited for long hours at roadside taps to get a bucket of water.
The entire district of Bankura suffers from acute drinking water crisis every summer. Even in this area there are no water supply by taps to the households.
While the most fortunate have to queue up on the roads to collect water from the taps twice a day, for others ponds and wells are the principal source.
Sen and her daughters staged a road show drawing substantial crowds in this sleepy area. But even the unprecedented efforts of the local authorities could not fully protect the younger daughter Riya, who was visibly in discomfort due to the dust in this dustbowl, fluttering her eyelids and raising her soft hands to rub her eyes.
The entire stretch of the road was, however, wet when the gypsy rolled past.
Despite the inconvenience to the trio, the gesture of the panchayat drew political jibes.
TMC candidate Moon Moon Sen with her daughters, Riya Sen and Raima Sen campaign in Mejia, Bankura. (HT photo/Subhankar Chakraborty)
"I am amazed to see local authorities pouring huge amounts of water on the roads to beat the dust when people are unable to get access to drinking water. I campaign every day and by the time I get back home I am covered with red dust. I take a shower and clean myself. How can she represent the people if she cannot fight the dust of the area she is representing," asked Basudeb Acharya, a nine time MP from the area.
State BJP president, Rahul Sinha, remarked in Kolkata, "Let the locals decide whether they would vote for such a candidate. It is clear now that such candidates, who are so affected by local conditions, would never return to the area."
Some locals, who ran after the vehicle of the Sens to catch a glimpse of the 'stars', also could not easily digest the gesture.
"The area suffers from water crisis, especially in the summer. Washing roads is something we can't simply imagine," quipped a woman in a saree who is tormented by the crisis ever since she came to this village after marriage.
A few minutes after 4pm, Riya in a crisp white cotton salwar kammeez in blue border and Raima in a blue churidar walked out to offer puja at the local kali temple the police had to take charge to discipline the unruly crowd.
DSP Ananda Shankar said a platoon of commandos and 100 policemen were deployed to control the crowd.
At 4.35pm sharp, Trinamool Lok Sabha candidate Moon Moon Sen and her daughters along with her husband stepped out for the road show. People gathered on roof tops, balconies and jostled on the roads to catch a glimpse of the 'stars'.
On another vehicle, a band party kept playing famous Uttam-Suchitra number 'Aai poth jodi na shesh hoy".
While Raima was busy blowing kisses at the crowd from the moment she boarded the vehicle, Riya was a little hesitant and kept adjusting her hair. Soon mother Moon Moon came to her rescue and gestured to her to say namaste to the people on rooftops and on the roads.
But the dust kept bothering Riya.