"Is there anybody in the house? Can you please switch on the lights?” said the woman with salt and pepper hair and in a crisp taanter sari.
This was the second day that Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s wife, Meera Bhattacharjee, was visiting the 300-odd residents of Megha Mallar, one of south Kolkata’s oldest residential apartments. Even as she went knocking on every door with CPI(M) candidate from Ballygunge, Fuad Halim, in tow, few recognised Meera Bhattacharjee or Fuad Halim, son of former speaker Hashim Abdul Halim, a man who has served the CPI(M) in the assembly for 29 years.
Beginning from the top floor, the motley group representing the CPI(M) rang the doorbell of Sanjay Dasgupta, a resident of Megha Mallar for more than 30 years. “I don’t think it will be easy for the CPI(M) in this constituency. In the rest of Bengal too, it will be a tough contest,” said Dasgupta. His mother Krishna did not recognise Meera Bhattacharjee but was touched when she learnt that the chief minister’s wife had come calling.
In another flat, the woman of the house, Lopamudra Ghosh, answered the door but didn’t recognise the woman who sought her ashirbad for April 27, the day the city goes to polls. Meera Bhattacharjee introduced Fuad Halim, putting in a few good words for him. Ghosh was polite but non-committal. When she heard that it was the chief minister’s wife who had sought her support, Ghosh was surprised. “It is totally unexpected. Though this constituency is a Congress stronghold, her coming over to campaign was very emotional moment for us,” said Ghosh.
First-time candidate Fuad Halim had reason to feel encouraged. Meera Bhattacharjee was walking for him (and also talking) and the chief minister, too, will address an election meeting for him shortly. “The chief minister and his wife live in this constituency and know a lot of people here. She is definitely going to make a difference.” said Fuad Halim.
When asked whether she was hopeful about the CPI(M) candidate in Ballygunge, Meera Bhattacharjee sounded optimistic. “Fuad Halim is a good and a strong candidate. I hope the people will not just look at the party symbol but at the merits of a candidate when they cast the vote,” she said, folding her palms in a humble plea for approval.
One wonders what Trinamool heavyweight from Ballygunge Subrata Mukherjee would have to say to that.