With assembly elections round the corner neither West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Mamata Banerjee, who heads the opposition Trinamool Congress, is ready to let any opportunity to earn brownie points with the voters go waste.
Ever since a trawler ferrying pilgrims capsized at Kakdwip in South 24 Parganas district on Saturday, killing 21 people, several leaders, associates and cabinet colleagues of the Trinamool and the CPM-led Left Front government have visited the spot.
The chief minister left his party’s state committee meeting and rushed to the spot on Sunday afternoon. After meeting district officials, he also visited the Kakdwip hospital to meet the survivors.
Banerjee, on the other hand, braved the fatigue of her two-day tour of Maoist-affected districts, Bankura and Purulia, to rush to Kakdwip. She is expected to reach the spot late on Sunday night.
Both parties are trying to outdo each other by sending several ministers to look after relief and rescue operations. Incidentally, the Trinamool had routed the CPM in the South 24 Parganas district in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation elections held in June.
While Banerjee sent Union minister of state for shipping Mukul Roy and Union minister of state for information and culture CM Jatua to the spot, the state government has rushed a number of ministers including civil defence minister Sreekumar Mukherjee and Sunderban affairs minister Kanti Ganguly to the spot.
But the locals seem far from impressed. Angry villagers from Kakdwip blocked roads and agitated for over eight hours, disrupting vehicular movement in the area. They alleged that rescue operations started late and were inadequate.
The villagers also raised questions regarding lack of government initiative to stop such recurring boat mishaps in the area.
Mukherjee’s convoy was also held up for an hour due to the agitation.
“The people are sad. They have lost their near and dear ones. It is natural that they will express their sorrow like this,” Mukherjee said.
Assembly polls in the state are likely to be held in mid-2011.