There is a twist in the tale of Jaynagar and Kultali, twin towns in South 24 Parganas, going to polls along with Kolkata on Wednesday.
In this part of Bengal, about 70 km from Kolkata, the poll plot does not revolve around either the CPM or the Trinamool Congress, but the Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI). And that is the way it has been for the last 34 years.
The SUCI considers itself more left than the CPM, and less right than ally Trinamool.
In fact, in 2006, when the CPM washed out any semblance of an opposition whatsoever — when it won 235 of the 294 Assembly seats — these two remained untouched.
“People here got a Leftist alternative to the CPM 30 years ago and clung to it,” says Tarun Nashkar, the SUCI candidate from the Jaynagar seat reserved for scheduled castes. “Voters here are communists, but they want to see the CPM go.”
And this time, after the SUCI jumped into the fray for 31 of the 65 seats the Trinamool left for the Congress as part of its seat-sharing deal in South 24 Parganas, the Congress fielded a candidate in retaliation — a first in 15 years for Jaynagar.
The entry of the Congress, and the consequent prospect of increasing chances of dividing the anti-CPM vote, has given the party a reason to smile.
“We are telling the Left-aligned voters here that we are the real communists and not the SUCI,” said Shyamali Halder, the CPM candidate from Jaynagar.
But the CPM is not the only one battling out this identity crisis. The Congress here also has to convince the anti-Left voters that it really enjoys Mamata Banerjee’s blessings, which perhaps explains the overwhelming number of posters and cutouts of Banerjee in the SUCI as well as the Congress’ kit.
Meanwhile, the voters are trying to make sense of the political muddle. Says Sadhan Roy, a school teacher, “It’s strange this time. After a point all parties seem to be saying the same thing. They are all leftists, they are all friends with Mamata and they all want change.”