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Will the Left record break?

kolkata Updated: Apr 16, 2011 15:26 IST
Saptarshi Banerjee
Saptarshi Banerjee
Hindustan Times

I have come to see the state you are in. I will not make promises but I only ask you to put your faith in Mamata Banerjee at least once and vote for change — this is the message Shankar Chakraborty, Trinamool Congress candidate from Balurghat , is sending out to voters.

“We have decided not to carry out any negative campaign,” said Chakraborty as he took a break from his rigorous campaign. “Things seem to be working in favour of Trinamool this time as people are responding in a positive manner.”

Chakraborty is contesting from Balurghat for the second time. He contested the seat in 2001 against the same rival, RSP heavyweight and correctional homes and social welfare minister Biswanath Choudhury.

Choudhury has won this seat seven times in a row since 1977, making Balurghat almost his middle name over the years. But he must have got the scare of his life in the 2001 elections when the margin of victory came down to only 2,723 votes. It is because of that record that Chakraborty has been pitted against Choudhury once again. That too at a time when winds of change are sweeping the state. Though apparently safe in his citadel Choudhury cannot afford to be complacent.

Though he should be scared of the anti-incumbency factor because of his 34-year stint as local MLA, Choudhury thinks he will not perform badly. “Kharap result hobe na. Chintar kono karon nei (The results wont be bad. There is nothing to worry for),” he said. Claiming that Balurghat and the other five constituencies of South Dinajpur have not been hit by the wave of change, Choudhury said, “People of Malda and North Dinajpur may pass a different verdict this time.”

“The entire district, including Balurghat, is a place where people have always fought for their rights so there is no question of change here. We will win all six assembly seats in this district. Remember my words when results are declared,” said the minister with deep confidence in his voice.

The railway connection between Malda and Balurghat is one of the main cards that both the RSP and Trinamool Congress are playing to woo voters. “Balurghat got the train connection because of us. Now we have placed our demand for double tracks and goods trains,” said Choudhury. “All roads in the constituency are metalled, power problem have been taken care of, we have good schools and colleges, a B.Ed college, law college and an engineering college. A master plan has also been prepared for revamping the drainage system. The municipality offers good healthcare facilities. These are some things that I have done.”

The Trinamool, on the other hand, claims that the train link became possible only because of railway minister Mamata Banerjee’s efforts. People seemed to acknowledge Banerjee’s contribution more than the RSP’s claims.

Krishna Deb Barman, who works in a small hotel in Balurghat, said, “The entire economy in the district is based on agriculture. The Left has been in power since 1977 but the Marxists never made any effort to set up even small industries here. At least, Mamata solved the transportation problem.”

Nitai, who runs a tea stall at Balurghat station, agreed. “Common people did not get any job in anganwadis or primary schools. Only children and followers of Left leaders got jobs. We can feel the wind of change.”