Homemaker, economist: Candidates from all walks of life in Bengal assembly
This term, the assembly will also see another ‘didi’ in the form of Sreerupa Mitra Chaudhury who is known as Nirbhoy didi for the Nirbhoy Gram campaign
While Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is popularly known as didi, another didi has made her way to state assembly this time. Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) Sreerupa Mitra Chaudhury, known as Nirbhoy didi, will be joined by legislators from diverse professions and walks of life to make up the state assembly this term.
Chaudhury, who is currently being treated for Covid-19 at a Kolkata hospital, won from Englishbazar in Malda district.
The 56-year-old woman rights activist was made the chairperson of the special task force on rape, trafficking and violence against women, constituted by the Centre in 2012 after the Nirbhaya case in Delhi. She was also the brain behind the ‘Nirbhoy Gram’, a campaign in Malda district of West Bengal focusing on empowering villages for safety and security of women and children.
Then there is award winning Bengali Dalit writer Manoranjan Byapari, who was fielded by the ruling Trinamool Congress. The 65-year-old defeated BJP’s Subhas Chandra Haldar by 5,784 votes at Balagarh in Hooghly district.
Born in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), Bypari’s family migrated to West Bengal when he was three. He even served a jail term for his alleged Naxal links. Raised in refugee camps, the writer never received a formal education.
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Later, he started pulling rickshaw in Kolkata and worked as cook in a school for more than two decades. In 2020, he was made the chairman of the Dalit Sahitya Academy set up by chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
Also on the list is Chandana Bauri, 30, a homemaker married to a daily labourer. BJP fielded her from Saltora in Bankura. She defeated TMC’s Sontosh Kumar Mondol by 4,145 votes. According to their affidavit, the couple has less than ₹70,000 in their bank account.
“It is a wonderful feeling. I want to do something for the people of my village and constituency, where man-elephant conflict takes a huge toll,” she said.
From Debra in West Midnapore, former IPS officer Humayun Kabir, who quit as the police commissioner of Chandannagar in January 2021, just three months before his scheduled retirement, has been elected. He joined the TMC in February. His wife Anindita Kabir was already with the Trinamool Congress.
Kabir started his career as a school teacher soon after completing his masters’ degree. He has authored books and even directed short film ‘Aleya’. He made headlines several times in the past for arresting some of the most notorious criminals in the state and investigating some controversial cases.
One of the most surprising and prominent names in the BJP’s candidate list this year was the former chief economic advisor, Ashok Lahiri. The 69-year-old was initially fielded from Alipurduar but his name had to be dropped in the face of protests by BJP workers to field Suman Kanjilal. Lahiri was later fielded by the party from Balurghat seat where he defeated TMC’s Sekhar Dasgupta by 13,436 votes.
An alumnus of the Presidency University, Lahiri has also been an economic advisor in the Union finance ministry. He had stints in the International Monetary Fund and in the World Bank. He retired as executive director from Asian Development Bank in June 2013.
“My most important agenda is development and growth. West Bengal has fallen behind in the race with some of the other states. It hasn’t been able to take advantage of the fact that it is a coastal state. It has a great industrial tradition. I want to play a very constructive role. I don’t know how much I will succeed. I will try to add value to the discussions in the assembly,” said Lahiri.