After the freedom, the politics. The enclave dwellers, who became Indian citizens on Friday midnight, may not be sufficient to have a decisive say in assembly constituencies, but the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC)and Forward Bloc leaders have earnestly taken the plunge to capture the new vote bank.
On Friday, TMC MLA Rabindranath Ghosh and Forward Bloc MLA Udayan Guha discussed with enclave dwellers on how they can bring development to their villages that lack virtually every basic necessity from drinking water to roads. “The Mamata Banerjee government was always keen on giving you the rights you deserve and the government would ensure development reaches you,” Ghosh told the gathering before hoisting the Indian tricolour.
The earnestness of the leaders appears more pronounced after a scrutiny of the numbers. Only about 11,000 out of the 14,854 residents are voters. But they will be included in Mekhliganj, Mathabhanga, Dinhata and Sitai constituencies and the numbers will be distributed into smaller units.
They, however, will become an important force in the rural polls and that perhaps reasons Ghosh and Guha’s efforts towards convincing the new voters, who may become decisive factors in about five gram panchayats in the district. “Villagers are more keenly glued to the rural polls, certainly more than the level of enthusiasm in assembly and Parliamentary polls,” argued Minjarul Alam, 52, who has a fake voter identity card and had voted in the 2013 panchayat poll.
Of about 11,000 voters spread across the four Assembly segments, half already have voter-ID cards based on forged documents. In effect, there would be 5,000-6,000 new voters altogether. The list of requirements for these impoverished villages is a long one — drinking water, electricity, roads, sanitation, schools and primary health centres. The politics may be commensurately long-drawn.