Beliaghata is all set for a close contest between two candidates whose political careers have no similarity. The CPI(M), after much calculation nominated Anadi Sahu instead of Manab Mukherjee keeping in mind that the personal image of a candidate could be a factor in a big fight of this nature.
Much before the elections were announced, the party had decided that it would not let the Opposition go on the offensive. The fact that questions were raised in the assembly about Mukherjee seeking medical reimbursement for an expensive set of spectacles purchased by his wife kept the CPI(M) on the alert.
With a sizeable section of voters somewhat disgruntled by Mukherjee's failure to address local problems and attending party meetings in the area the CPI(M) was compelled to think of someone like Sahu.
Anadi Sahu has always maintained a low profile but his track record as labour minister is good. Party workers as well as people from his old constituency know him as an honest and cordial person. This is a cause for relief in the CPI(M).
Trinamool's Paresh Pal, on the other hand, was always in the limelight for his social work and Good Samaritan image, which he nurtured for more than a decade as councillor. He has organised mass marriages for poor people. He started an annual fair, Subhas Mela, which has now virtually become a festival. He regularly gets prominent singers for soirees. Last but not the least, his hilsa festival during monsoon has set him apart from the motley crew of typical politicians. "Even today he drives an ambulance at night to take patients to hospitals from his locality," said Mohit Sarkar, a Trinamool Congress worker.
But in Beliaghata, the CPI(M)'s main cause for worry is the highhanded attitude of a group of mid and low ranking party workers and leaders whose behaviour has cost the party dear. The CPI(M) has warned many such party workers in a bid to retain the constituency.
"We are bringing up current national issues such as corruption, privatisation of banks and the insurance sector, inflation and unemployment to reach out to voters instead of just harping on our performance over thirty four years. Yes, there are few party workers with whom people were not happy. We have taken action against them. But this factor would not affect our prospects in this constituency," Sahu said.
Paresh Pal is stressing on the CPI(M)'s "non-performance in three decades". "Their only job is to make allegations against the railway minister who is holding the berth for only two years. The Marxists are in the power for thirty-four years. What they have done for West Bengal?" said Pal.
Surprisingly, the CPI(M) keeps silent on Sahu's success during his tenure as labour minister. In most of the meetings in Beliaghata party leaders are found to be vocal against Mamata Banerjee.
CPI(M) campaign managers are not highlighting Sahu's performance or the different welfare schemes for labourers and employees of different unorganised sectors. "Yes, I also agree that the success story is not being highlighted. We will think about it," said Sahu. But he seemed to be reluctant.
Apart from eyeing the CPI(M)'s failure in governance, Pal has brought some colour in his campaign. Actors from yesteryears, Zeenat Aman and Asrani are taking part in his road shows. "If a silver screen icon pleads for vote in favour of a candidate then it makes a difference. So I have brought them in my campaign," Pal said. "In the last Lok Sabha election the CPI(M) was defeated by 6,793 votes in the assembly segment. The margin will go up three times," he added. The CPI(M) candidate too claimed that the victory margin will be more than 2006.
Ironically, factional feuds and undercurrents in both parties have kept both anxious. After the results in 2009, many grassroots-level workers of the CPI(M) switched allegiance and joined Trinamool Congress. Similarly, in Trinamool too many groups have come up to become dominant factors inside the party.
In Beliagahata non-performance'is the issue for both CPI(M) and Trinamool Congress. The CPI(M) is stressing on Banerjee's non-performance and her "false promises" while the Trinamool is stressing on the CPI(M)'s performance in the state. It will be 2.29 lakh-odd voters who will take the final call.