Lakhinarayan Mahato is excited. While working in his field on Friday morning, he was talking to his friends about the EVM that he will get to see for the first time on Saturday. Mahato, however, is not a teenager, or even in his early 20s, but a 32-year-old farmer in a village in Nadia that has been denied voting rights since 1981.
Char Jatrasiddhi used to be a village in Chandrahati-II panchayat area at Magra, Hooghly. But the changing course of the Bhagirathi river and erosion cost the villagers their geographical identity. Both the Hooghly and Nadia district administrations claimed the village as part of their territory. And, amid the resulting confusion, the voters' list of the entire village was struck off in 1982.
The village has more than 250 houses and 2,700 voters. "We finally got voting rights only in 2009. But, during the Lok Sabha elections that year, all the eligible voters did not receive their identity cards. I was one of those who didn't. Finally, after much running around, I got my identity card and will finally be voting this year," Mahato said with a smile.
About 13 kilometres from Kalyani Simanta, the village can be accessed from two directions - by crossing a tributary of the Bhagirathi by boat during high tide or walking through the slimy, muddy canal at low tide and then trekking for another two kilometres. Those who do not want to cross the canal have to first come to Char Jajira village, where the nearest motorable road ends, and then walk through three kilometres of rice and paddy fields and narrow muddy lanes to reach Char Jatrasiddhi.
At a time when both the CPI(M) and Trinamool are fighting hard to get into Writers' Buildings, Char Jatrasiddhi will be a boon to the green brigade. "When our village was dropped from the voters' list of both the districts, we went to court, but the cost involved made it impossible for us to fight a legal battle against the state government. Then, we decided to go to Bhuban Pramanik, the CPI(M) MLA from Hooghly. He didn't help us because, during 1981, the CPI(M) lost the panchayat elections here to the Congress. They understood that we would not add to their vote bank," said 68-year-old Bhagabat Mahato, head of the village.
"So, we went to Mamata Banerjee in 2009. After hearing of our plight, she asked Mukul Roy to ensure that we got back our right to vote. We owe it to the Trinamool Congress and Didi," the old man said, patting his goat and pointing at a poster of Mamata Banerjee.