One year after Ghani Khan Chowdhury’s death, the Malda Congress leaders are either a disgruntled lot or have shifted their allegiance to Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi.
Taking advantage of the political vacuum created in the absence of Barkatda, Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi is on an overdrive to establish his sway over the land that once was run from Kotwali (Barkatda’s palatial residence).
District Congress leaders are unhappy because Barkatda’s younger brother and political successor AH Khan Chowdhury, who won the Lok Sabha by-election in September last year from the seat represented by his elder brother, spends very little time in Kotwali and more in Delhi.
The district Congress leaders are also astonished by the fact that Barkatda’s sister and Malda District Congress president Ruby Noor although available in Kotwali, she spends more time in her Shujapur Assembly seat than leading the Malda Congress from the front.
“This is possibly the only district where the Congress didn’t do any movements on Singur and Nandigram. All of us are missing Barkatda because he not only directed the party effectively in Malda but also personally visited the villages in his Mercedes Benz,” said Malda District Congress general secretary Samir Chatterjee.
“And recently when 600 houses were razed to the ground in Malda, no senior leader of the district went to the spot to meet the poor people. This was unimaginable during Barkatda’s times. Had he been alive, Barkatda would have rushed to the spot and spent time with villagers and given them relief,” added Samir Chatterjee.
Samir is not the only Malda Congress leader who is upset with the state of affairs. District Congress general secretary Ram Pravesh Mondol, vice-president Masidur Rahman, AICC member Asit Bose and PCC member Suresh Bihani all feel that after Barkatda’s death, the Congress has become rudderless in Malda.
“Given the present scenario in Malda, is it surprising that Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi is making inroads in Malda. He is after all a politician,” said Masidur Rahman.
At present Dasmunshi’s Raiganj Lok Sabha seat shares its border with Malda. What’s more, out of the seven Assembly segments that forms his parliamentary seat, three Harishchandrapur, Kharba and Ratua falls in Malda. So Dasmunshi is spending lot of time to nurture these Assembly segments.
What’s more, if the recommendations of the Delimitation Commission become effective from 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Malda will have two MP seats – Malda North and Malda South. And in this case, three Malda Assembly seats that are now part of Dasmunshi’s Raiganj Lok Sabha seat would be attached with the Malda North parliamentary seat.
“We are hearing that after the Delimitation, Dasmunshi would hold on to Raiganj seat, but he would field his wife and Ghoalpokor MLA Deepa Dasmunshi from Malda North Lok Saha seat. So it is not surprising that Dasmunshi has already put his men to nurture the other four Assembly seats – Araidanga, Old Malda, Gazol and Habibpur – that would be part of the North Malda seat,” said a district Congress leader.
District Congress leaders who were loyal to Barkatda like Sachidananda Chakrabarty of Kharba, Ajay Singh of Ratua and Dulal Sheikh of Harishchandrapur are now working overtime for Dasmunshi. Moreover, even Barkat-loyalists like English Bazar MLA Krishnendu Narayan Chowdhury and Malda Zilla Sabhadhipati Gautam Chakrabarty have shifted their allegiance to Dasmunshi.
“There is no reason to believe that we don’t have respect for Barkatda. But in his absence, we need someone to work for us in Delhi and get projects for Malda. Daluda is a first-time MP, therefore we are getting in touch with Priyada to do work in Malda,” explained Krishnendu Chowdhury.
But to be fair to Dasmunshi, he is indeed working for Malda. He has taken special initiative for electrification of Malda and by bringing Malda rivers under Farakka Barrage he has also taken steps for flood control management and river erosion.
But what is Ruby Noor and AH Khan Chowdhury doing? “We are still working for the people. We both are now focusing to set up as soon as possible a university, a medical college and hospital and a technical institute in Malda,” said Ruby Noor.