Bally: She is among the ‘young turks’ in the Left Front’s list of candidates and is confident of giving a tough fight in the electoral battle in her home turf and, in fact, winning it. Dipista Dhar, 28, a PhD scholar from Delhi’ Jawaharlal Nehru University is in the fray for voting on April 6, as a candidate from Bally in Howrah district.
When asked about her campaign, Dhar, the all-India joint secretary of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI), who is diving from student activism to mainstream politics as a CPI(M) candidate, says she is focussing on education and employment in West Bengal, but conceded that political violence was something that is a challenge.
In conversation with NewsClick, Dhar said in West Bengal, physical threat to do politics is huge.
“In Ashutosh College (from where she graduated), I had seen TMC (Trinamool Congress) from close quarters and in JNU, I observed ABVP (RSS-affiliated student organisation) closely. This is an advantage for me. As I have seen BJP from close quarters (in Delhi), I am being able to reach out to that section of people who think Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is an option for replacing TMC rule. I am being able to dispel people’s doubts by articulating the fact that BJP is a worse outfit than TMC. There are many people who had thought that on a temporary basis let’s vote for BJP, I am being able to enter into dialogue with them”, Dhar said while speaking with NewsClick.
Many traditionally non-Left voters, too, seem touched by Dhar’s conviction this time. She confirmed this, saying that several people are welcoming the fact that “we are conducting a constructive campaign. Perhaps, the JNU tag is also having an impact, she added.
Dhar said another thing she is trying to counter is TMC leader Mamata Banerjee’s campaign tagline of boosting Bengali chauvinism. She feels say this has hurt many non-Bengali speaking persons in the state. “These people are being polarised toward BJP, so we are engaging in a dialogue to bring this section back to the Left Front,” she said.
Aske asked how tough it was to fight elections in a former “terror hotbed” where many of her comrades have an average of 17-18 cases slapped against them by the TMC regime , Dhar, who looks frail, said nothing deters her as her role model is none other than Ila Mitra from Natore (Mitra was one of the communist stalwarts of Bengal who was imprisoned in East Pakistan and tortured. The CPI later came to West Bengal and was an MLA. There are numerous poems dedicated to her and she is considered a legendary leader.)
Till 2017-16, Bally was a “hotbed of terror”. However, mass contact programmes by the Left Front have blunted the terror tactics of the TMC. In the 2021 Assembly polls, Dhar is facing TMC’s turncoat incumbent MLA Vaishali Dalmiya, who is fighting on BJP ticket this time, and Rana Chatterjee of TMC (a medical practitioner). Dalmiya took a chartered flight to New Delhi to switch over to BJP and the flight was reportedly sent by BJP leader Amit Shah.
While her opponents are spending crores in the campaign, Dhar’s team is the clear leader in wall graffiti. “Actually wherever money is involved, we are laggards, but in case of people-centric campaign, we are frontrunners,” said Sankar Moitra, CPI(M)’s Howrah district secretariat member who is in-charge of her campaign.
Moitra said in Bally, the right of people to speak openly about their politics and electoral preferences was trampled over the past few years, but now people have overcome fear and are openly saying that they will vote for CPI(M), adding that people have understood from their experience, the futility of the anti-Left campaign carried out after 2011. Yet, in 2016 Assembly polls, the CPI(M) had 33% vote share here, he said.
In Bally, Dhar’s background seems to be a big positive for her in the electoral battle, as she has been a prominent face during the anti-NRC/CAA protests, and during relief work after the Delhi communal violence, solidarity with farmer protests and the Nabanna youth march demanding jobs and education.
“Dipsita has always been on the side of people’s struggle at this young age, and that is an added factor here,”said Samiran Chatterjee, secretary of Bally Belur area commitee of CPI(M).
In fact, during the Shaheen Bagh sit-in protests in Delhi, Dipsita was been active in organising protests in Votebagan and Pilkhan of Howrah, both minority-dominated areas.
Another issue that has peeved the people of Bally is the amalgamation of Bally Municipality with Howrah Municipal Corporation, which is also being taken by the Left candidate.
Since the past two years, there has been no election in the urban local bodies of area. The CPI(M) has been working in the downtrodden areas of Belur and has regained some influence, while the upmarket hubs are leaning toward BJP, said one of Dhar’s campaign team members.