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Mamata wins hearts and votes

The Mamata Banerjee hurricane tour stopped in Dinajpur on Monday where the Trinamool Congress chief pleaded for votes in the name of development. Anirban Choudhury reports.

india Updated: Apr 12, 2011 15:59 IST
Anirban Choudhury

The Mamata Banerjee hurricane tour stopped in Dinajpur on Monday where the Trinamool Congress chief pleaded for votes in the name of development.

If Sunday’s concern during the campaign at Malda and North Dinajpur was Congress back stabbing, South Dinajpur presented a totally different scenario. Since 1977, it has been a Marxist bastion and the present score is Left 5, Opposition 0.

After the Lok Sabha polls, the scenario has changed and Banerjee is on a strong wicket with narrowing margins in most Assembly segments. After delimitation this district now has six seats and Trinamool Congress is contesting five of them. The Trinamool leader fought for the seats and her prestige is at stake.

Banerjee on Monday shunned political histrionics. Instead, she became a performer, like a rock star in front of her favourite audience. She set an interactive mode with the crowd just like a seasoned Bollywood star communicates with the audience. People of South Dinapur, who know Banerjee but not so much her party, erupted in response. At Tapan, she asked the women whether they had the lungpower to demand the downfall of Left Front government. A competition began and reached a crescendo when the impoverished men and women of Tapan forgot their miseries and danced to Banerjee’s tune.

She read the minds of the crowd, to win over them ulitimately. “If a CPI(M) man has become a minister in 1977 when he was 25, how long has he ruled? Tell me right now,” said the Trinamool chief. When the answer came, she asked, “Will you allow him to rule more?” Pat came the reply: No. She spotted a bearded man and asked, “Chacha, are you with me?” The man, with the largest grin on the face stood up. Before he could utter a word, the crowd replied, “Yes.”

At the meetings, unlike on Sundays, she chose not to make heavy political statements. Instead, Banerjee converted herself into a woman next door. Targeting the youth and women she interacted with them like an elder sister and not the woman who might take charge of West Bengal after May 13.

“Not a single acre of land will be taken away. There will be new railway connections. There will be more industries. People will get jobs,” thundered Banerjee and the women ululated. Some blew conch shells and Banerjee had won their hearts. The Trinamool chief looked vulnerable and she referred to the first failed attempt of her helicopter to land at Kumargunje. “My life is full of risks. But I have to live with them to reach out to you,” she said.

Before she set out for the five meetings in South Dinajpur, she had important business to discuss with the district president of Congress, Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury. Chowdhury and Congress MLA, Krishnendu Chowdhury discussed the menace of independent candidates and devised a strategy to fight unitedly. The Congress leadership assured that defectors will be punished.