If the hectic poll preparations of the party cadres are any indicator, the CPI(M) could find it tough to retain the Dhupguri assembly seat, which it had been winning since 1977.
The constituency with estimated voter strength of 2 lakh, is set to go to polls in the first phase scheduled for April 18. With the party pushed to the corner following back to back electoral reverses and being left to battle the prevailing anti-incumbency wave, the CPI(M) has denied ticket to two-time MLA Lakshmi Kanta Roy and has instead opted for Dhupguri Municipality councillor Mamata Roy as its poll nominee.
Trinamool Congress, the principal Opposition, has fielded Mina Burman (51), a homemaker and wife of Trinamool district leader Ashok Kumar Burman, from the seat reserved for Scheduled Caste (SC) candidates.
Dhupguri, having one municipality, one panchayat samiti and 16 gram panchayats has always been a Left stronghold, even when the separatist campaign of the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) was at its peak in the late 90s and early 2000 and resulted in the killings of scores of Left leaders and supporters. However, in the decade since, the constituency mostly inhabited by the Rajbonshi community, has been swept by the winds of change. Reeling under the anti-incumbency wave, the Left leaders have found it increasingly difficult to convince the voters of the party’s role in building roads and primary schools in every village.
The Left at present has control over the Dhupguri panchayat samiti and municipality. Again, of the 16 gram panchayats, the Left is in charge of six, while the rest are controlled by opposition parties. However, on the surface it appears difficult to read as to which party has an edge over the other in the ensuing poll battle.
However, if Mohammed Afujuddin (50), a daily labourer, is to be believed, the CPI(M) has suffered erosion in its support base. A resident of Bairatiguri and a father of five, Afijuddin had been an ardent CPI(M) loyal, but joined the Trinamool four months back.
“The CPI(M) leaders failed to live up to their promise of hiking the loading rates of labourers, but Trinamool’s labour arm has since increased the rate to R1 for every 50kg potato sack from the existing 50 paise,” said Afijuddin. He said that the level of harassment he encountered to secure his daughter’s minority certificate was enough for him to turn against the CPI(M). He said that his sons left for Kerala due to lack of employment opportunities in the area.
However, Saidul Islam, another labour, continues to repose faith on the CPI(M). A resident of Pacchim Magurmari, Islam said, “Even if nobody else were to vote for the CPI(M), he would cast his vote in favour of the Left. I have been with the CPI(M) for the last 17 years, would continue to work for them.”