Elections are not just about politicians. They're about people and issues. And what will really drive their vote.
Catch is, therefore, starting a 'Meet the voter' series, which will capture what different impact groups in the poll-bound states are feeling. This is true insight on the upcoming Assembly elections: up-close and hyper-personal.
The Kasba constituency in Kolkata covers quite a large area and is known for its diversity. Though a large number of shopping malls, star hotels and business centers have come up here, it has managed to retain its old Kolkata charm and "para" (mohalla) culture in some parts.
The CPI(M) has fielded a young leader Satarup Ghosh against Khan, even though the former had lost miserably in the last election. But Left cadres are slightly more optimistic this time as they feel that there is a yearning for younger leaders.
We spoke to Ranjana Bhattacharya, one of the voters in Kasba. She has been an NGO worker for many years and has been involved in cultural activities as well. She was earlier a voter in the Jadavpur constituency, the seat of ex-chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. This is the second time she would be voting in Kasba.
Q: You changed your constituency in the last election, when Paribartan (change) took place in Bengal...
A: Yes, it was a little delayed. Actually, I wanted to keep my vote in Jadavpur. But the CPI(M) unit there asked me to change as I have changed my address for long. See I've been a leftist since I was very young. In Jadavpur, I saw that there was a good relationship between the candidate, party workers and voters. I don't find this here at all. I don't even see the person who won from here last time.
Q: Are you supporting the Left-Congress alliance in Bengal?
A: Under the present circumstances, yes. I was annoyed that CPI(M) declared their list of candidates first. There were hitches in the alliance in the beginning, but now gradually things are getting under control. We cannot ignore the fact that the CPI(M) lacks organisational strength. Though Congress is a reactionary party, they are involved in parliamentary politics. So it is better to secure their support to come back to power or provide strong opposition to the TMC in the state. It has to be an issue based alliance.
Q: Do you think this alliance will help contain the TMC in terms of seats?
A: I cannot answer this question as I'm more into the politics of heart. I'm bad with numbers. What I'm seeing is that politics is being overshadowed by atrocities and muscle power. If the two parties form a strong alliance, they can take on the ruling party.
Under TMC, politics has become about muscle power. Congress-Left tie-up can take on the ruling party
Q: But Left Front also indulged in the politics of fear when it was in power. Do you disagree?
A: Yes, I disagree. My personal experience in my ward in Jadavpur was always good. There was always a friendly atmosphere during elections. But the situation has changed since 2011.
Q: How much work has been done in your constituency?
A: I cannot give you the exact report as I haven't seen much work at all. But the councilor in my ward, who belongs to the CPI, is working a lot for the development of the area. She is trying to keep the environment clean. But in my constituency, roads are often demolished and rebuilt according to the ruling party's whims, no matter how much inconvenience it causes for the residents. Yes, streetlights are there. But the traffic is bad and often dangerous.
A: Before 2011, it was not at all a problem if we were returning at 9.30-10.00 at night. But now the situation has changed. Women's safety has become a problem. Even in my age I get disturbed with what I face on the streets or while travelling in public vehicles. My husband gets worried if I'm late. Earlier it was not a problem at all. Not just the ruling party, the entire system is responsible. The perpetrators are not punished enough.
Women's safety has become a problem. Even in my age I get disturbed with what I face on the streets
Q: Though it may sound cliched, but did you expect more with Bengal having its first female chief minister?
A: See, I don't want to discriminate or judge on the basis of gender. But in general we expected a certain kind of decency and civilised manners in the way the chief minister conducts herself and the way she speaks. This is somewhat missing. This is reflected in the overall party structure. But for the last one and a half months, her behavior has sobered down a little. I don't know if it is because of the elections.
Q: What do you think of the BJP's prospects in West Bengal?
A: Earlier, I believed that BJP doesn't have much presence in West Bengal. But people voted for them in the Lok Sabha elections. So, you really cannot understand what people will go for in a certain situation. In rural areas or suburbs, people still practice family and community based voting. They give a lot of importance to local issues. These need to be connected with larger issues. We are more politically driven, not socially.
Q: Do you think this time the result is going to be different?
A: I can only say that there might be some change in cities, but not in villages. We can easily forget the past. We will remember the good things the government did in the last one and a half months, forgetting 5 years of no work at all. In the first 15 years of the Left Front regime, a lot of work was done. The same holds for the middle phase. But towards the end, some bad elements at the lower level corrupted the party and that led to its downfall.
Q: Lastly, do you think the Narada sting operation scandal is going to have an effect in the election? And if the videos are doctored?
A: I think it has been done by a group within the ruling party itself. It is not doctored. It is all about power. As far as the effect is concerned, I really cannot comment anything on that.
Edited by Aditya Menon
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