Durgapur/Kolkata: In the steel and colliery belt of West Bengal which is going to polls in the seventh phase on April 26, the electoral battle is between the promise of change by the young faces of the Left front and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s politics of religion.
Amid apprehensions of trouble during Ramnavami celebrations in the region, the youth brigade and workers of the Left front have been at work on the ground focusing on the demands roti, kapda and makaan (food, clothes and shelter).
In Durgapur Purba Assembly constituency the Communist Party of India (Marxist) candidate Avash Roychoudhury is fighting for the seat. In the last election, both seats in the steel city were won by Left supported candidates. However, after the elections, the Congress MLA had defected to Trinamool Congress, following which hooligans often launched alleged attacks on the organised steel workers in the region along with police forces.
A former general secretary of the Democratic Youth Federation of India and central committee member of CPI(M), Roychoudhury is focussing on the organised and unorganised workers of the steel units in the region, who form the major portion of voters. He is challenged by Pradip Majumdar of Trinamool Congress and Diptangshu Choudhury of BJP.
Meanwhile, the BJP’s focus is on religious polarisation, a fact proved by the cropping up of numerous mandirs post the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
In Durgapur West, Congress has fielded Debesh Chakraborty, a steel worker while incumbent MLA from TMC Biswanath Parial and Laxman Ghorui of BJP are also in the fray. This area, too, has reportedly witnessed a change with Ramnavami celebrations coming up, which were earlier not so common, as pointed by a worker from the region.
In Jamuria constituency, TMC leader Hareram Singh is challenged by Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union president Aishe Ghosh from the CPI(M). A team of five members from JNU have been accompanying Aishe on her electoral campaigns.
The coal belt in Jamuria has witnessed closure of several mines in the recent past, with the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) emerging as the sole voice against such measures.
Notably, open cast mining which paves the way for privatisation and has been adopted in several areas already is being promoted in Jamuria as well. The Eastern Coalfield Limited is reportedly trying to close profitable mines in Jamuria, ostensibly to help the private parties.
The Left front candidate has been focussing on the issues of the workers of the region, whose problems range from water scarcity to requirement of Anganwadi centres. Since 1977, Jamuria has never elected for any non-Left candidate.
Asma Bibi, a resident of Jamuria, said, “Aishe is already very popular among the residents of our region. It is reflective of her determination to work for us.”
Samit Kabi, who is part of Aishe’s campaign team, told NewsClick, “The colliery workers already seem to have made up their minds to vote for Aishe. Her fight against the Sangh Parivar forces is a part of folklore here.”
In Ranigunj, Left front’s incumbent MLA Hemant Prabhakar is in the fray, while in Pandabeshwar Sunil Chandra Bauri is representing the LF. The LF is hopeful of winning both the constituencies.
(With inputs from Sankar Pal in Durgapur)