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They don't know who their MLA is

They have had a new MLA for around one and a half years. But as they gear up to vote on April 18, they still don't know who their MLA is! Snigdhendu Bhattacharya reports.

kolkata Updated: Apr 15, 2011 02:42 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya

They have had a new MLA for around one and a half years. But as they gear up to vote on April 18, they still don't know who their MLA is!

Welcome to Jayanti village inside Buxa tiger reserve in Alipurduar sub-division of Jalpaiguri district. Manohar Tirkey, former minister of state, PWD, and former MLA from Kalchini, was elected to the parliament in 2009 but the verdict may not be similar this time.

In the Assembly by-election that followed, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM)-supported Independent candidate Wilson Champamari won from Kalchini by about 7,000 votes. But these statistics hardly matter for villagers of Jayanti.

"Here, the RSP (Revolutionary Socialist Party) is everything. But Manohar Tirkey won't get votes this time," said Deepak Biswas, an employee of Banante, a private tourist lodge on the banks of Jayanti river.

"The area belongs to the forest department. So, there is no scope to develop tourism," said Kalchini block development officer Thendrup Sherpa.

Not a single poster or graffiti asking for votes could be seen in the village that boasts about 500 are voters. There are no party flags and the only sign of the impending elections was a truck carrying about 10 Trinamool Congress supporters that passed by.

Locals, however, talk politics. They are eyeing a change as the Marxists have been in the state for way too long. "Who can predict what will happen in the polls? Who knows the voters' minds?" said Purnima Gadhra, owner of a stationery-cum-grocery shop. "But people are talking of change here as the Marxists have overstayed."

For a change, the reds (read RSP) have a better chance than in the 2009 Assembly by-polls. According to local political analysts, the Adivasi Vikas Parishad (AVP), which has significant clout and secured second position in the last bypoll, have lost ground. While the GJM has managed to keep its support base intact as the area has about 50,000 Gorkha voters, the 15,000 votes of tribal communities such as Bodo, Rabha and Mechh are likely to split between the RSP, GJM and Shibu Soren's Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), which has been supported by AVP.

Champamari, who was shocked to hear that voters did not know his name, said, "This gives a better perspective of how people are living in West Bengal."