Chhattisgarh 2018

Congress parachutes Bengali leaders to campaign in southern Chhattisgarh

Pull of the mother tongue: Sharmistha Mukherjee, daughter of Pranab Mukherjee, in Chhattisgarh.  

The Congress is flying in its Bengali-speaking leaders from Kolkata and Delhi to campaign in southern Chhattisgarh.

Arun Bhadra, party State general secretary, says a large number of Bengalis are present in pockets of Chhattisgarh. Following the displacement of Bengalis in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, in the 1950s, large numbers of Bengalis were settled in central India under the Dandakaranya Project of the Union government. The Bengalis had backed the Congress for many decades, but many have shifted allegiance to the Bharatiya Janata Party over the past decade.

“So, for the first time, we are getting so many Bengali leaders to campaign in the Maoist areas, as we sense victory,” Mr. Bhadra told The Hindu.

Personal appeal

Sharmistha Mukherjee, daughter of former President Pranab Mukherjee, and Sushmita Dev, daughter of the late Santosh Mohan Dev, a former Minister, just completed their first leg of campaigning, telling the voters that they have come to “ask for support not as Congress leaders but as their daughters”.

Ms. Mukherjee visited the Ramakrishna Mission, an influential institution in the tribal areas, in Narayanpur, and both leaders informally interacted with the security forces as part of their campaign for the first phase of polling on November 12, when 18 constituencies go to the polls.

The Antagarh constituency in Bastar division of Kanker district has about one lakh Bengali-speaking voters in 135 villages. The refugees were rehabilitated in settlements following the partition of Bengal and their population continues to grow in size and influence, especially in Antagarh.

They, however, cannot contest as the constituency, with a strong presence of both Maoists and security forces, is reserved for the Scheduled Tribes.

In this year’s election — considered close — the Congress has decided to focus on Bengalis in Antagarh and in other pockets of Chhattisgarh, where they are in sizeable numbers. So Ms. Mukherjee and Ms. Dev were invited by the State Congress leaders.

More to follow

“In the second phase, we are trying hard to get former Congress West Bengal president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Abhijeet Mukherjee, MP,” said Mr. Bhadra, who heads the Bengali Association in Chhattisgarh.

Realising the Congress plan, the BJP initiated a last-ditch effort to get Union Minister Babul Supriyo, an MP from Asansol in West Bengal, for the campaign. “After the Prime Minister’s meeting on Friday, there is only one day left to campaign for the first phase. We are trying to get Supriyo on that day,” a BJP spokesperson said.

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Printable version | Jun 23, 2021 11:59:19 AM |

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