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A Basu takes on left

Both Gautam Deb and Bratya Basu are powerful speakers and in keeping with the politically charged constituency, the two seem to fit in accurately. Anirban Choudhury reports.

kolkata Updated: Apr 24, 2011 15:28 IST
Anirban Choudhury

"Bratya? Who?"

"He will know who Bratya is after May 13 results."

The tone of the contest was set right from the start of election campaign and the acerbic tongues of both contestants have been working overtime. The candidates of Dum Dum assembly constituency are not known to hide their hatred for each other's brand of politics.

Both Gautam Deb and Bratya Basu are powerful speakers and in keeping with the politically charged constituency, the two seem to fit in accurately.

Deb is a seasoned politician who has risen to prominence by sheer merit. He is the chief campaigner of the CPI(M) and the party has reposed faith in him out of its necessity to gamble with a situation when a large chunk of loyalists has turned away.

Basu, on the other hand, is a newcomer in electoral politics. "I am not a politician, but I have a political mind," he says. An established playwright and actor, Basu had publicly become part of the anti-Left bandwagon in the post Nandigram-Singur agitation era when intellectuals took to the streets against police firing and forcible land acquisition. In television chat shows, he became the voice of the anti-CPI(M) lobby and nobody knows when he publicly started saying that he was a Trinamool sympathiser and had no qualms about it.

Basu is Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee's strategic foil for the most outspoken CPI(M) leader. Deb, in turn, is the CPI(M)'s last straw to check the Banerjee tornado, which has unsettled every possible election strategy the Left has taken so far.

Deb has been addressing news conferences and appearing on television interviews quite frequently to present his chargesheet against Banerjee. He is possibly the only leader in the country who has been interacting with the media with slide shows and video presentations. After chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's Jadavpur, it is perhaps Dum Dum that has generated the maximum interest among voters. Dum Dum has traditionally been a stronghold of the CPI(M). Such leaders as Shanti Ghatak (1987), Sankar Sen (1991, 1996) and Rekha Goswami (2006) won from here with emphatic margins. The party slipped in 2001, when Arunava Ghosh of the Congress won by 200-odd votes, creating a record of sorts during that period of Left supremacy.

The political character of Dum Dum, however, has changed in recent times with a steady erosion in the Left votebank. The CPI(M) faltered in dealing with inner squabbles among top leaders such as Subhas Chakraborty, Amitava Nandy and Paltu Dasgupta. Massive housing projects have also changed the character of the electorate. Many of who are outsiders without any traditional attachment with CPI(M).

The result: The two municipalities of the area, South Dum Dum and North Dum Dum, have been wrested by Trinamool. In the Lok Sabha, Trinamool MP Sougata Ray represents Dum Dum.

It's a tough challenge for Deb as he has to bring all sections under one umbrella. "My job is to bring all workers and party sympathisers together. The poll fight will become easier if this happens. I am spending every moment of my spare time on mass contacts. I will win," said Deb as he distributed roses among voters.

"Deb is an outsider and people are aware of his role in the Rajarhat land scam," said Basu. "People have rejected CPI(M) and leaders like Deb." For Basu, nothing is at stake politically. But for both protagonists, the outcome may batter many egos and equations.

Dum Dum has risen above a mere contest between two political parties or individuals and has become a battle royal because of several reasons. Deb is the new leader of the CPI(M), entrusted to rejuvenate the waning morale of the party workers and boost poll fortunes. That is why he has been running around addressing meetings. His win will mean many things for the party. Firstly, continuing with the faith in his new found leadership qualities and second, should a Trinamool-led government come to power, use his oratory skills to bombard the new government.

Basu is the face of the Trinamool's intellectual front, which had heightened the party's prospects and acceptability among urban middle class. His victory will put a stamp on Banerjee's choice to field the right candidate against the political heavyweight.