“Fight for underprivileged,” says Saira Shah Halim contesting Bengal by-polls on CPIM ticket

“I want a life of purpose that can make some difference, empowering women and the underprivileged, taking everyone together,” says educator and poet Saira Shah Halim who is the CPM candidate from the Ballygunge Assembly constituency in West Bengal.

Saira, the daughter-in-law of former West Bengal Assembly Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim, is holding Babul Supriyo, a former Union minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) candidate as her main challenge. The former Union minister left BJP for the Trinamool Congress last year. The BJP announced that it was fielding Keya Ghosh opposite Supriyo and Saira from Ballygunge.

“We are confident of giving a good fight, I am doing a door-to-door campaign eight hours everyday, besides public meetings,” Saira said to PTI news agency.

In an interview with PTI, Saira claimed the people in the constituency have not taken kindly to the ruling party TMC taking Supriyo in from the BJP and fielding him as a candidate.

She went on to say: “In Ballygunge, every ward is different from the other, there is a sizeable minority population which constitute 51 per cent of the voters, a large Bengali intelligentsia; there are highrises (where the rich live) as well as slums.”

The byelection to Ballygunge was necessitated by the demise of Subrata Mukherjee in November, 2021. Mukherjee was an important minister in the Mamata Banerjee cabinet holding the Panchayats portfolio.

“The perception that the TMC is a party looking after the interests of minorities is wrong; these two incidents will affect it very badly,” Saira said, claiming the cold-blood murder of student leader Anish Khan and the Bogtui killings will have an impact on the polls.

Anish Khan’s father and elder brother came to meet and support Saira on Sunday.

Anti-CAA forum backs Saira Shah Halim

A day after some of them were arrested ahead of a rally to urge people not to vote for Trinamul’s Babul Supriyo or the BJP’s Keya Ghosh, a forum of anti-CAA and anti-NRC activists on Saturday pledged support to CPM candidate Saira Shah Halim for the bypoll, The Telegraph reported.

“We will support Saira Shah Halim as she participated in the anti-CAA and anti-NRC movements in 2019 with us. She is the strongest secular candidate for the Ballygunge bypoll,” said at least 26 civil rights activists.

“We will hold the rally and it will take place on April 7, along with Saira Shah Halim (CPM candidate),” said Left-leaning economist Prasenjit Bose, one of the main organisers of the anti-CAA citizens’ movement in Calcutta, at a news meet.

“This anti-CAA movement directed 90 percent of the minority vote to TMC. But it does not care about us, and fielded a candidate who is an accused in the Asansol anti-Muslim riots,” said Manzar Jameel, an activist.

“We had given the vote to TMC in opposition to BJP and now it is putting BJP turncoats on us. And when we want to say No to it, we are not being allowed to say in our areas.” ENewsroom quotes Another ctivist Imtiaz Mollah, who resides near Park Circus as saying.