The presence of Roben Burman at the meeting is unusual. East Nogua village, which is the last point of Itahar assembly constituency, is hosting a Left Front meeting and the principal speaker is CPI MLA and minister of civil defence Srikumar Mukherjee.
Talking to HT, Burman, 42, said, “I always voted for Congress but I am going to cast my vote for the CPI candidate.” The farmer has reason to be grateful. “A culvert has been cut out of a canal because of Mukherjee’s initiative. My three children are now going to their school safely,” said Burman.
East Nagua falls under Durlavpur gram panchayat, which is a Congress stronghold. Itahar constituency comprises 12 gram panchayats and Congress is ruling all except Durgapur.
However, the Congress is on a shaky ground. During the last year, 19 schools, including two for tribals, were set up. Three madrasas were also inaugurated. Itahar also has a college and BEd institution and around 69% of agricultural land is irrigated.
The candidate representing the Congress-Trinamool alliance against Mukherjee is Amal Acharya, pradhan of Patirajpur gram panchayat for the last 25 years. Acharya is now in the Trinamool and had earlier been in the Congress when he lost to Mukherjee in 2006 by 740 votes.
The CPI candidate who is a three-time winner has supporters all over the constituency. Talking to HT, Jagadish Bhagat and Joydeb Burman of Taltungi village falling under Acharya’s citadel Patirajpur said, “If the contest is between the CPI and the Congress candidate then we will support Mukherjee due to his development work at Itahar.”
Though Mukherjee has achieved a hat trick, the Left’s share of vote is less than 50% vote and Mukherjee admits it. “Congress is a strong presence here and we are trying to overcome this by concentrating on development and it is working.”
The Left Front candidate in the 2004 parliamentary election was trailing by more than 5,000 votes in Itahar but Mukherjee won in 2006. However, the Left trailed by 12,700 votes from Itahar Assembly segment in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
However, the Opposition votes may be divided. When Mamata Banerjee declared her list of candidates, Rabbul Bux was announced as the Trinamool contestant from Itahar. Bux, a teacher of Kapasia High School, is the North Dinajpur district president of Trinamool’s Kishan Congress. Within 48 hours, Bux had to make way for Amal Acharya as the latter defected from the Congress. This angered Bux and his supporters, especially in Kapasia and Itahar panchayat areas. Bux is now contesting as an independent candidate and justifies his stand by saying that locals forced him to contest.
Even Congress supporters are supporting Bux. Mohammed Younus of Ghera and Rahimuddin Ahmed of Soair said, “We are traditional Congress supporters but this time we are supporting Bux. Amal Acharya is a traitor and joined Trinamool to get a ticket.”
Former Congress minister Zainal Abedin is also angry as his son Shaesta was not given a ticket. “Shaesta had built up a base but still missed the bus. Amal Acharya and his family are into the fertiliser racket. If he is elected then Bengal will get a bad name. Bux was also deprived and my blessings are with him,” said Abedin.
Bux with the blessings of Abedin may take out a chunk of anti-Left vote. “This split in anti-Left vote will definitely give me advantage,” said Mukherjee.