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Strangers in strange land

It’s a fight between two outsiders, both of who have lost their seats because of delimitation. The Congress has pitted Deboprasad Ray, sitting MLA from Jalpaiguri, against RSP leader and PWD minister Kshiti Goswami. Subhendu Maiti reports.

kolkata Updated: Apr 16, 2011 14:39 IST
Subhendu Maiti

It’s a fight between two outsiders, both of who have lost their seats because of delimitation. The Congress has pitted Deboprasad Ray, sitting MLA from Jalpaiguri, against RSP leader and PWD minister Kshiti Goswami since the Jalpaiguri seat has been reserved for Scheduled Caste candidates.

Some Jalpaiguri district Congress leaders close to Sourav Chakraborty, a Chhatra Parishad leader, are unhappy with Ray’s nomination and he first felt the pulse of his party workers March 31 when he could not mobilise them for a door-to-door campaign at Hospital More in ward 13.

Finding no other option, the Congress candidate (62) spent the morning at Elite Parjatan Abas, smoking king-size cigarettes one after another.

“I had decided to start campaigning from ward 13. But nobody came. How to spend my time now? Some people are saying I am an outsider. Why do they say so? My birthplace is Alipurduar Junction,” said Ray, former AICC secretary for seven years since 1985.

He sat there making calls to a TV channel about a talk-show on elections at Rabindra Park on New Town Road. He was desperate to attend the programme to make his face familiar to the electorate.

“I am a Congress worker for more than three decades. For a short while, I was actively involved with All India Youth Congress in Delhi. Rahul Gandhi appointed me as one of the two trainers for AICC cadre-building programme in Amethi in 2007. As a result, I was in close contact with South Block and 10 Janpath Road. But I was a sitting MLA from Jalpaiguri since 2006.”

“Initially, we had a problem of internal feud in my district party unit when the PCC gave me the green light to contest in Alipurduar. Now that the problem has been solved, I am confident of defeating Kshiti Goswami in the wave of change led by Mamata Banerjee. The CPI(M)-led Left Front has failed to solve problems in tea gardens, tourism, healthcare system, rural electrification and transport in north Bengal during its 34-year regime. This time Trinamool and its ally Congress will fight together. In the 2006 assembly elections it was a triangular fight among Left Front, Congress and Trinamool,” he said.

Biplab Saha, a bakery owner, said, “Debaprasad is not a known face here. His political identity is also not strong in the district. He had defeated Forward Block candidate Gobindo Roy by 1,000 votes in Jalpaiguri constituency in 2006. But there might be a strong fight between the two in this wave of change.”

While the campaign for Ray failed to gain momentum in Alipurduar town, Goswami is well ahead in this regard.

The situation had not been congenial for Goswami initially with his party asking him to contest the elections from Alipurduar, replacing four-time MLA and party colleague Nirmal Das. Some RSP men displayed their fury by ransacking the party’s zonal committee office in protest against the party’s decision to import Goswami from Kolkata for Alipurduar after replacing Das.

“Alipurduar has always been a stronghold of the RSP because of the Left Front’s pro-people activities. This assembly segment had given a fair lead of more than 12,000 votes even in the Lok Sabha elections in 2009 when the Left Front suffered a major setback,” Goswami said.

Ganesh Banik, RSP supporter, said, “It will be a tough fight this time. Our party is yet to do something positive to make Alipurduar a separate district.”

It’s not just politics that separate the two. When it comes to cultural ideologies they belong to two different poles. Ray said, “I do not have any hobby now. In my childhood, I had a fascination for drawing and painting.”

Goswami is, however, actively involved in group theatre and sports. “We run Rangapat, a theatre group, in my Kolkata house, owned by my wife Sunanda. I also love football and cricket. I am a member of East Bengal Club and Cricket Association of Bengal.”