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Mamata vs Chhatradhar

Once ally, now bitter enemy. Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee is keen on defeating jailed spokesperson of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities Chhatradhar Mahato, who is contesting from Jhargram. Snigdhendu Bhattacharya reports.

india Updated: May 06, 2011 16:46 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya

Once ally, now bitter enemy. Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee is keen on defeating jailed spokesperson of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) Chhatradhar Mahato, who is contesting from Jhargram.

Banerjee wants to seize the moment and get the upper hand in dealing with the Maoist-backed tribal outfit if she comes to power.

Banerjee will be addressing a rally at Jhargram on May 6. The party’s youth wing president and Tamluk MP Suvendu Adhikary will also be here for the next two days.

“Mahato is likely to split the Opposition votes but we are trying our best to ensure that the CPI(M) does not get any advantage,” said Adhikary.

The Trinamool is treading cautiously and the party knows that Mahato still has public support, sympathy and is the face of the tribal movement. Attacking him may backfire. The Trinamool is arguing that these polls are for bringing a change in Writers’ Buildings and people should vote accordingly. “We are sure of coming to power and according to our manifesto, Banerjee will have to initiate talks with the PCAPA. Before that, she wants to gauge the popularity of Mahato versus Trinamool and the result will determine future tactics,” said a senior Trinamool leader.

Both Trinamool candidate Sukumar Hansda and Mahato have demanded the withdrawal of the joint forces and development. “To demand withdrawal of forces we need change at Writers’ Buildings. So the voters should elect someone who will have a major say in the corridors of power,” said Adhikary.

In Jhargram, a traditional Left bastion, the CPI(M) had a 16,000 vote lead over the Trinamool in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. However, in 2009, the Opposition had boycotted the polls and since then Netai has turned voters away from the Left.

Mahato’s supporters are campaigning hard. “Not a single vote to the harmad CPI(M). Not a single vote to Trinamool either, which is supporting the UPA-2 government at the Centre,” is the slogan of Mahato’s supporters. “After these polls, Banerjee will know who is the real leader, she or the person languishing in jail because of his sacrifice and fight for tribals,” said the former secretary-spokesperson of PCAPA, Manoj Mahato, out on bail and leading the campaign.