Both are Bhattacharyas. But the similarities end there. If it is Siliguri, then no politician stands taller than Asok Bhattacharya.
His party, the CPI(M), is as much aware of this fact as the Opposition, despite the municipal affairs and urban development minister’s failure to solve the Hills crisis when the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha started a fresh movement for a separate Gorkhaland three years ago. He is synonymous with Siliguri’s development, its aspirations and politics. Pitted against the CPI(M) heavyweight, Rudra Narayan Bhattacharya, 59, of Trinamool can be easily considered a weak contestant for the Siliguri seat.
The medical practitioner tries to counter public opinion with his professional expertise. “Heavyweight is a bad symptom as far as health is concerned. An obese person can suffer from heart disease, high blood pressure and various other aliments. There is no alternative but to lose weight,” he said to silence his critics. The Trinamool nominee resigned as dean of North Bengal Medical College and Hospital (NBMCH) to make his debut in electoral politics.
The Trinamool candidate strongly believes that the anti-Left wave in south Bengal has already made its way into the foothills of north Bengal and Siliguri is all set to “put to rest the misrule of the Left Front”.
The doctor who claims to be associated with at least 500 social welfare organisations, many of them in Siliguri, works for the marginalised. “The experience so far has been wonderful and everywhere people are welcoming me with hope and aspiration,” said the Trinamool candidate.
Born at Muradnagar in Uttar Pradesh, the doctor belongs to a family that has served the Indian armed forces for generations. His father too had worked for the ministry of defence. Rudra Narayan Bhattacharya received his MBBS degree from NBMCH, which he later joined. In his college days, he was a member of the Chhatra Parishad. The Trinamool candidate sets a spanking pace and usually his day starts at 7 am. Throughout the day, he meets a cross-section of voters and calls it a day only after midnight. According to Rudra Narayan Bhattacharya, he meets slum-dwellers, daily wage earners and students, who, according to him have been pushed to the brink during the 34-year-old Left root. “The suffering of the must come to an end and only Trinamool chief, Mamata Banerjee, can provide the answer to all problems in the state,” says the doctor.
Talking to Hindustan Times at Siliguri College, where he was leading a rally of more than 300 college students, Rudra Narayan Bhattacharya said, “The cosmetic development of Siliguri cannot hoodwink smart voters who want real development, including healthcare, quality education and employment opportunities.” When pointed out that his opponent enjoys credit for what Siliguri is today, the Trinamool candidate said, “If the plight of slum-dwellers in ward 20 of Siliguri Municipal Corporation from where the minister hails, is any indicator, it is apparent how the CPI(M) has tried to fool voters by drawing false pictures.”
Businessmen and real estate promoters who seem to have benefited the most from the development of Siliguri favour Bhattacharya the minister. Businessman Sanjay Singhal said, “The business community in Siliguri feels safe under his leadership.” Both Congress and Trinamool, however, accuse Asok Bhattacharya of hobnobbing with the business community. A few days ago, the minister said, “I have not taken any favour from the business community. Nor have I favoured them.”
According to the minister, since Siliguri lacks industry, trade needs to be promoted as they can create maximum employment opportunities. The CPM candidate, however, confessed that not all promises have been fulfilled. The unfulfilled tasks include distribution of land pattas to those living on rail land, cleaning Fuleswari, Jorapani, Mahesmari and Panchandi rivers and installing floodlights at Kanchanjungha