An under-construction house that serves as a makeshift office of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Cooch Behar district’s remote Bhetaguri, has been turned into a fortress with a bunker at its entrance and several security personal with automatic weapons standing guard.
Nisith Pramanik, 33, the BJP candidate for Cooch Behar, is managing his campaign from this impromptu fortress.
Mr. Pramanik looks a typical well-heeled, urban youth with a taste for fashion but looks are certainly deceptive. What makes him very different is apparent in his affidavit to the Election Commission that mentions 11 criminal cases against him. The charges include attempt to murder, outraging the modesty of women, dacoity, theft, and obstructing a government servant from discharge of his duties.
‘Redeemed of sins’
“I have been redeemed of all my sins by joining the party. The BJP is like Ganga and I feel that I have been purified,” Mr. Pramanik told The Hindu . He is forthright in admitting that before he joined the saffron party in 2019, his services were at the call of Bengal's ruling party, the Trinamool Congress (TMC).
“I have no hesitation is saying that I was asked to foil the BJP rath yatra in Cooch Behar district, something I could not do and that became the point of conflict,” he claimed.
Differences between Mr Pramanik, an erstwhile youth TMC leader, and the party emerged during rural polls in 2018, when he tried to assert his influence. He went on to field about 300 independent candidates in the panchayat polls, many of whom won.
Despite opposition to his nomination from those within the party, the BJP feels that he is a trump card that can beat the TMC at its own game. BJP district president Malati Raha admitted that their candidate comes from a “different political culture” but emphasised that he was popular and could win the seat for the party.
The departure of Nisith Pramanik, one of the key musclemen for the party till December 2018, is a major cause for concern for the TMC district leadership.
The Trinamool, which is feeling the heat, had won the 2016 Lok Sabha bypoll in Cooch Behar with a margin of 4.07 lakh votes and secured almost 60% of the votes.
With the TMC dropping its sitting MP, Partha Pratim Roy, and fielding former All India Forward Bloc veteran Paresh Chandra Adhikari, the BJP is hoping that the new entrant will prove an even match. Mr Pramanik claims that there are many in the TMC in the district who will support him on voting day.
Ironically, Rabindranath Ghosh, district chairperson of the TMC, has been demanding his arrest, citing his criminal antecedents.
“There are 11 cases against Nisith Pramanik. We have learnt in at least two cases he has not been granted bail . We demand his immediate arrest,” Mr. Ghosh said.