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Bengal: Left Candidates Focus on Electoral Bonds, Sandeshkhali in Poll Campaign

The Left-Congress alliance’s message of a ‘combined fight’ against mutual rivals – TMC and BJP –seems to be resonating well.
bengal CPM

CPI(M) candidate Saira Shah Halim campaigning in Kasba area of Kolkata South parliamentary segment.

Kolkata: Rabin Sinha is a ‘zero number’ casual worker in Kamarhati jute mill, who is bearing the brunt of lack of a union to take up their fight. (A ‘zero number’ worker denotes a system prevalent in jute mills when a badli worker gets no number. His chance of employment with the jute mill rests on the retirement or injury of permanent jute mill workers).

Sinha’s jute mill is in Kamarhati, which falls under the Dumdum Lok Sabha constituency, last time voted for Saugata Roy of Trinamool Congress (TMC). After Roy’s victory, the jute mill authorities openly started to engaging bouncers in the name of “disciplining” erring jute mill workers. As a result, during the past few years, given the slightest chance, the jute mill authorities began stopping the entry of jute mill workers into the mill premises, which led to loss of jobs for several mill workers.

“No union activity, except by the TMC workers' union, was allowed in mill premises,” recalled Sinha, who claimed that Roy also did not allow mill workers to visit his house. “Once jute mill workers forced him to hear their grievances, but from the next day, troubles of the jute mill workers seemed to increase manifold,” he told NewsClick.

This year, the advent of CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty as a Lok Sabha candidate in Dumdum has, to some extent, stemmed the “union busting” activity by the ruling TMC, at least before the elections, claimed Sinha.  

He said a win of the Left candidate would be crucial for the interest of the jute mill workers of the region.

Sinha is not a leader of the jute mill movement but just an ordinary worker in Kamarhati jute mill.  His understanding of the deterioration in the plight of jute mill workers and the working class of the region and role of the Left seems to be having some traction and is raising hopes of a fair chance of a win this year, according to Palash Das,  CPI(M) leader in Dum Dum and a party secretariat member.

“People are now aghast at the misrule of TMC and even their candidate, Roy, is aware of this,” Das told Newsclick. “He (Roy) has been saying that this year would be a tough fight,” he claimed.

The campaign of the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate, Shilbhadra Dutta, is centering around Ram Mandir and TMC’s ‘corruption’.

However, the electoral bond scam, termed the “biggest scam” in the country, has been beneficial to both TMC and the BJP, which is being amplified by the Left parties in their election campaign.

Along with this, the large-scale molestation and harassment of women by some ruling party leaders in Sandeshkhali has also become an election issue across the state, with Srijan Bhattacharya, the Left Front candidate in Jadavpore Lok Sabha segment and by Mohd Salim, the Left candidate in Murshidabad, making it a focus in their campaign.

 While the TMC is focusing on the ‘freebies’ that it has offered to the people, the tone of its campaign almost sounds intimidating, say critics, who allege that people are being “virtually threatened” that as recipients of the largesse, it is better that their votes do not “detract from the TMC’s stable,”

The minority vote swing, which has traditionally been with the TMC in the past few elections, may return to the Left-Congress alliance, say some political observers.

This year, there have been numerous reports in the media pointing out the deplorable condition of the minority population in the state. Saira Shah Halim, a social worker and a CPI(M) candidate in the Kolkata South Lok Sabha segment, is repeatedly pointing out to her electorate that the ‘feel good factor’ for the minorities that the TMC is trying to project, does not exist at all.

The North Kolkata seat has veteran Congress leader and ideologue, Pradip Bhattacharya, as the joint Left-Congress candidate.

The message of a ‘combined fight’ against mutual rivals – TMC and BJP – is being sent throughout the state, especially among Left Front and Congress voters, and seems to be resonating as well.

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