His only asset a mobile phone worth Rs 1,500, Bimal Mondol, 38, an Independent candidate from Behala East, is one of the poorest candidates contesting this election.
“I gifted this secondhand Nokia phone to my mother who died a few weeks before Durga Puja. Since then I have been using it,” said Mondol, who has been living in an old dilapidated building in a dingy lane on Roy Bahadaur Road.
A private tutor by profession, Mondol teaches around 12 students in a rented house where he lives as part of a joint family. While a handful of them come from middle-class families, they are mostly children of local hawkers and domestics who can’t afford to send their children to any private tutors.
“Most of these students can’t afford to pay any fees. I earn around R2,500 a month from those who can,” he said.
For Mondal, contesting the elections is the only democratic way of protesting against the hypocrisy of both the ruling Left Front and its main rival, the Trinamool Congress.
His affinity for politics surfaced during his college days when he used to study B Sc in Netaji Nagar Day College. But financial crunch didn’t allow him to complete graduation. “Since college, I have been an active member of the CPIML (New Democracy). As the party is not registered, I am contesting as an Independent candidate,” he said.
Every morning, Mondal goes out to campaign, visiting households and asking for votes. “My symbol would be twin candles. I have already applied for it.”
But contesting the elections from a constituency where candidates like Trinamool’s Sovan Chatterjee and others are also fighting is not an easy task. “I hear all the time that the Trinamool is campaigning that I am contesting the elections just to divide its vote bank," he said.
Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee had recently claimed that most Independent candidates are professionals who are roped in by major political parties just to divide the vote bank. The candidates are paid money by the parties, she said.