Even as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was touring north Bengal, a few kilometres away another public meeting was held in the auditorium of Raiganj Institute in north Dinajpur. The auditorium, nearly a 500-seater, was choc-a-bloc and the songs and the slogans were reminiscent of the Left Front in its hey day. Shouting ‘Inquilab Zindabad’, those in the crowd were raising their fist often to say ‘Lal Salaam’ (Red Salute).
At the centre of the stage was Mohammed Salim, CPI(M)’s Central Committee member and the candidate in Raiganj. While media reports have mentioned Mr Salim as front runner, he will have to face the legacy of former Congress leader Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, now in a coma. While two members of Dasmunshi’s family are challenging him, Dasmunshi himself remains in the public memory.
His brother, Satya Ranjan Dasmunshi is the TMC candidate, while his wife, the sitting MP, Dipa Dasmunshi, is fighting on a Congress ticket. While they share the same ancestral house, both are giving each other a “tough run,” Satya Ranjan Dasmunshi said.
“Of course whoever (among family members) wins will earn the legacy of Dada (Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi). There was no development in Raiganj, after he has fallen sick…so I joined politics as one cannot do much work without the support of the State government and Mamata Banerjee is giving me tremendous support,” said Mr. Dasmunshi, reiterating that he has no “personal” enmity with his sister-in-law.
In 1998, Mr. Dasmunshi lost the election in Raiganj to CPI(M). He then shifted to Raiganj and started re-organising the party. “I remember him holding workers’ meetings and restructuring the set-up. He slowly built it (district Congress) up and the party is still reaping benefits,” said a senior DYFI leader of the district.
Two significant factors are however, keeping Mr. Salim ahead in a four-cornered contest. First, the CPI(M) got 43% of the Panchayat Samiti seats in north Dinajpur, ahead of both the Congress and the TMC. Second, Raiganj constituency covers almost the entire north Dinajpur district, which has third highest Muslim population in the State – 47.36%.