Lok Sabha elections 2019: Widow of slain TMC MLA hits campaign trail in West Bengal
When Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee announced on March 12 that Rupali Biswas would be the party candidate from Ranaghat Lok Sabha seat, the 25-year-old widow was still struggling to overcome the shock of her husband Satyajit Biswas’s murder.
Satyajit, a two-time TMC legislator from Nadia’s Krishnaganj assembly constituency, which falls under the Ranaghat Lok Sabha seat, was shot dead on February 10 at a Saraswati Puja event. Ranaghat goes to the polls on April 29 in the fourth phase of the general elections.
“I had no idea chief minister Mamata Banerjee was considering my name as a candidate. The TMC district unit chief had asked for my bio-data soon after my husband’s murder, but I thought the party wanted to find a way to support me,” said Biswas, who graduated four years ago in 2015.
Only 25 years and eight days old at the time of filing her nomination on April 5, Biswas is Bengal’s youngest candidate so far and possibly one of the youngest in the country. She is part of the Matuas, a Dalit community that migrated from erstwhile East Pakistan after Independence, and constitutes about 26% of the electorate in Ranaghat constituency, reserved for Scheduled Castes.
“She will also become the youngest MP,” CM Banerjee said while leading a padayatra in Ranaghat constituency last week. “A grave tragedy struck her. We need to stand by her. Her husband always worked for the people and she will do the same.”
Biswas is contesting against Jagannath Sarkar of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rama Biswas of Communist Party of India (Marxist). Both are 56 years old. Her third rival is Minati Biswas of Congress.
“Satyajit, Rupali’s husband, gave his life for the party. The party has a debt of blood to repay,” said Gourishankar Dutta, TMC’s Nadia district president.
BJP leader Mukul Roy is an accused in Satyajit’s murder and is out on bail. The BJP, however, maintains Satyajit’s death was a result of infighting in the TMC.
“Our sympathies are with her, but we are fighting the election on the basis of government policies. The contest is between the policies of Narendra Modi and Mamata Banerjee,” said Jagannath Sarkar, the BJP candidate.
Left candidate Rama Biswas, said, “Rupali will have to suffer for her party’s atrocities during the 2018 rural elections that was almost entirely rigged.”
Biswas has admitted she is nervous. During campaigns and workers’ meetings, other party leaders do most of the talking. The few words she speaks are mostly about how Satyajit dedicated his life to the service of the people.
According to political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty, a professor of political science at Rabindra Bharati University, “Given the BJP’s recent rise, Ranaghat is not an easy seat for the TMC. However, the sight of a 25-year-old widow campaigning with a toddler has a different appeal altogether.”