The three-storey Shahid Smriti Bhavan— CPI(M)’s district headquarters — is located at 191 Ramananda Sarani in Bankura Town. On the first floor, Partha De, school education minister and sitting MLA from Bankura who was denied a ticket this time, sat on a red chair.
It’s noon and health minister Suryakanta Mishra is ready to embark on a campaign tour of the remote areas of the district. “So, Parthada, is everything all right?” Mishra asks De, who gives his cabinet colleague a grim look and replies, “I think so. Everything is on track.” But his voice does not sound convincing. Rather, De’s answer is short on confidence.
The Bankura assembly seat comprises Bankura municipal area and nine panchayat areas with a total electorate of about 2.15 lakh. While the municipal area has about 1.2 lakh voters, less than one lakh voters hail from rural area. In the 2009 parliamentary elections, CPI(M) was trailing by 6,577 votes in the Bankura assembly segment. Although CPI(M) got a lead of more than 5,000 votes in rural areas, the party was trailing by about 12,000 votes in the municipal segment. In the 2010 civic poll, the Trinamool-Congress alliance won the Bankura Municipality from the Left Front, retaining almost the same margin in town.
One of the main grievances in Bankura town is absence of basic amenities. Sanjay Banerjee, who runs a car rental business, said, “Even when we are living in town, we have to suffer from the scarcity of drinking water in summer. There are two rivers — Dwarakeswar and Gandheswari — on the south and north of Bankura town respectively. Why did the government not come up with a project to solve the crisis?”
The CPI(M) is not in the position to raise any issues against the civic board. Amiyo Patra, district secretary of CPI(M) in Bankura, said, “Their municipal board is inactive and inefficient. All along, we have been weak in the municipality area. If they can maintain the same margin 12,000 votes, we will be in trouble. We will expect a lead of maximum 10,000 votes in panchayat areas,” Patra said.
The outrage among the poor is far in CPI(M)-ruled panchayat areas. Take Kalpathar, a CPI(M)-ruled panchayat area about 12 km from Bankura town. Bhaskar Bauri, a landless labourer from Gangtora village, said, “More than four months have passed. But so far I have not received any payment from the panchayat for the work I have done for them to dig up a pond.”