Friday, June 14, 2024

Young faces lead CPI(M) resurgence in West Bengal

Dipsita Dhar, during her campaign, was able to strike a chord with different sections of the population including women, youth, and workers from organized and unorganized sectors. (courtesy: x.com/dharDipsita)

Dipsita Dhar and Sairah Shah Halim are the two prominent young women candidates fielded by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] in West Bengal. Pratik Ur Rahaman, Srijan Bhattacharya, and Sayan Banerjee are their male colleagues contesting the all-important elections in the state.

The CPI(M) has fielded 8 candidates under 40 in the 22 seats the party is contesting, i.e. more than 30% of the seats. The aim is to send a message among the electorates to better represent the youth, lacking in the constituents during their regime in the state.

With firebrand leader of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), Minakshi Mukharjee leading the campaign, the CPI(M) is hoping for a turn of events.

Though the young brigade has energised the left party members and the supporters, they face multiple challenges of the elections being projected as a bipolar contest between the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the alleged utilization of official machinery by the TMC for electoral gains and the allegation of the inconsistent approach of the Election Commission and the central forces during polling.

Dipsita Dhar, a 30-year-old research scholar on Population Geography from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and a leader of the Students Federation of India (SFI) is the candidate from the Serampore constituency. Known for her energetic sloganeering during the students’ struggle inside and outside JNU, advocacy for LGBTQ rights, and gender rights among other issues of students and women in particular, Dhar has given a ray of hope for the party from the constituency.

Speaking to the author, Dhar detailed the principal talking points during her campaign which again focussed on the youth and the working class people.

“The youth of the state including those from the middle and working class are seeking employment which has been absent in the last decade. What is being peddled is communalisation coupled with increasing unemployment”, Dhar said to Maktoob.

She is fighting the TMC heavyweight and three-time MP Kalyan Banerjee, while Kabir Shankar Bose is the BJP candidate.

With TMC and BJP being the ruling parties in the state and center respectively, the challenges of the CPI(M)’s young brigade are multiple. Dhar pointed to the money and muscle power wielded by both the parties and the alleged support of the government machinery at different levels.

“These two parties have a lot of money received through the electoral bonds which is being used to intimidate the people. To ensure a democratic election, we have been fighting to ensure the people would vote for whom they want to and not be forced to vote for a particular party”, Dhar who is also a member of the CPI(M) state committee said.

CPI(M) star campaigner Minakshi Mukharjee campaigned extensively for the candidates. Here she is seen in a public meeting in support of Sairah Shah Halim contesting from Kolkata South.

She was undeterred by the racial comments of the Kalyan Banerjee just ahead of the elections. Instead, she utilized the opportunity to expose the sexiest comments by the TMC leader.

“Why is a person representing the constituency for the past 15 years afraid of a 30-year-old woman”, Dhar asked, referring to the questions she has raised during the campaign.

“He didn’t have any answers to the political questions we have raised and hence resorted to personal attacks. Both the BJP and TMC reflect the RSS ideology rooted against women. Kalyan Banerjee has proved us right”, she said.

Serampore is primarily an industrial area, spread across Hooghly and Howrah districts with the Howrah-Hooghly industrial belt being a part of the constituency.

Dhar is highly confident of wresting the constituency back for the CPI(M) considering the backing of the middle and working-class youth suffocating with communal polarisation and unemployment gripping the youngsters, earning for a change.

Diamond Harbour, considered a prestigious constituency for the CPI(M) is located hardly 50 kms south of Kolkata. Abhishek Banerjee, the second in command of the TMC and sitting MP is facing a tough challenge from Pratik Ur Rahaman, another leader of the SFI. The seat was held by the CPI(M) between 1967 and 2009, winning a record 12 consecutive times including by-elections.

The landfall of cyclone Remal across Bengal and Kolkata in particular did not deter the campaign. Rahaman, a member of the ‘Red Volunteer’ group which was formed earlier by the SFI, DYFI, and CPI(M) during the COVID-19 pandemic had to organize volunteers for the relief work.

Rahaman, an advocate and national vice president of the SFI is a member of the CPI(M) West Bengal state committee. He is being credited for putting up a brave fight. He spoke to this reporter after the campaign drew to a close on the evening of May 30.

SFI national leadership including President V P Sanu, General Secretary Mayukh Biswas, and Dipsita Dhar campaigned extensively for Pratik Ur Rahaman contesting from the Diamond Harbour constituency. (Courtesy:facebook.com/Sfipratikur)

Detailing about the core issues discussed during the campaign, he said to Maktoob, ”Our campaign focussed on the issues most important to the people that includes jobs, corruption, local government, infrastructure, and law and order. We ensured that we met numerous communities keeping our ears to the ground, hearing their worries, and presenting our vision for a blooming future. We organize rallies, go door to door, and deploy on social media to engage voters across the full spectrum”.

To a question about winning the confidence of the young and first-time voters, Rahaman expressed confidence in the response from the target group and the strategies adopted by the candidates to win the trust of the youth.

“We have been concentrating on the burning issues of the youth including matters concerning to employment, economic stability, and the availability of decent, affordable education as we approach the middle of the 21st century. As this generation of first-time voters prepares to start their adult lives, they have growing anxiety that the directions of TMC impede their chances at a brighter future. They understand how crucial education and job security are and they want some genuine, effective, solutions. We are running a well-planned campaign with a robust and holistic approach – including organizing, rallies, and a strong digital campaign to reach voters of all demographics”, he added.

In a major turn of events compared to previous elections, the LF candidates and leaders stood up to the intimidation tactics of the TMC and the money power of the BJP. Several candidates and leaders were seen visiting the polling booths to ensure the presence of party agents and resisted the usual attacks from TMC and BJP rank and file.

“We have been out in the community doing public meetings, town halls, canvases, knocking on the doors of our neighbors, listening to their concerns, and sharing our vision for a better future. Our campaign activities have drawn high levels of interest, especially from young voters who have shown great excitement around the possibilities of our progressive agenda. Even if women voters do, perhaps, genuinely appreciate the fact that we are the party in the race they identify with gender equality and empowerment”, Rahaman explained.

After consecutive, massive setbacks in elections since 2011, the LF has managed to put its strength together and the efforts reaped fruit in the 2021 assembly and local body elections. With young candidates and eloquent speakers managing to connect with the masses, the CPI(M) and the LF are making stronger attempts to regain their stronghold.

Neelambaran A is a freelance journalist.

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