He gripped the old women’s hands and put them on his head. “Dua diba na? Dua korte hobe to? (Won’t you give me your blessings? You must bless me),” he said. But Salehar Bibi and Anisa Beoa were angry. “We will not vote for anyone this time. We have not seen any development work. Neither were we given a house under Indira Awaas Yojana,” said one. Nonplussed, he put on a smile and asked, “Eto raag keno? Dua na korle hobe? (Why are you so angry? You must give blessings)”
It was Dakshin Nagar village in Juginda panchayat area of Domkal assembly constituency and CPI(M) candidate Anirsur Rahman was braving the scorching heat to campaign from door to door. If the blazing sun wasn’t tiring enough, the panchayat and rural development minister also had to face the wrath of villagers deprived of homes, proper roads and arsenic-free drinking water.
Rahman has been winning this seat since 1991. This time his challenge is a bit different. He is pitted against a Congress candidate whose father defeated him in the parliamentary polls of 2009 in Murshidabad constituency. Rahman lost to Mannan Hossain and was also trailing by a margin of 11,200 votes in Domkal. But he is leaving no stone unturned to win against son Shoumik at a time when the arithmetic is against the ruling party in Domkal, where the Congress holds the panchayat samiti.
This Congress candidate's biggest strength comes from his father, Mannan Hossain, the sitting MP from Murshidabad constituency.
Junior Hossain is an outsider to voters in Domkal and by profession is a contractor. Rahul Gandhi himself nominated him as the candidate from Domkal. Adhir Chowdhury, the district Congress president, is opposed to the candidature.
But Rahman believes he has the blessings of the electorate. Atar Ali Sheikh (55), a resident of Mathpara village and a labourer who earns R70 a day if he can work at all, told him: “I did not even get a torn blanket. But I am expressing my agitation only. This does not mean that I will not vote for CPI(M). You should rest assured.” Sabbir Sheikh, a CPI(M) worker who has become inactive because of differences with local leaders, said: “I am not working. But this will not affect your victory at all.”
Congress worker Golam Kibria and wife Mijan Bibi said, “None of our demands has so fulfilled. But people irrespective of their political inclination like Anisur Rahman.”
What may work in Rahman’s favour is the dissent among local Congress workers. “Why was Shoumik, an outsider, made the candidate when there are several deserving candidates in Domkal? He stays near Berhampore,” said a worker.
And what’s more Rahman even has Congress strongman Adhir Chowdhury’s dua. “In terms of personal image and glamour, Anisur is much ahead of our candidate,” said Chowdhury, who wanted to field Domkal block Congress president Shaoni Singha Roy.
Though he has been an MLA and minister since 1991, Rahman has somehow retained his popularity. He lost the 2009 parliamentary election from the Murshidabad seat and was trailing by 11, 200 votes in the Domkal assembly segment.
His opponent this time is an outsider and is not getting support from local Congress workers. He is apprehensive of the discontent among his voters who remains deprived of the benefits of development projects.