West Bengal Assembly Elections 2016

In Sujapur, it’s all in Barkatda’s family

Isha Khan Choudhury, Congress candidate for Sujapur.  

From the eastern edge of Muralipara, a nondescript village with a muddy road, closed drains and tonnes of garbage, emerges a handsome man, his hair dishevelled and salt and pepper.

“I am Isha Khan Choudhury, Congress candidate for Sujapur,” he introduces himself in English in a foreign accent. He does not hide that he spent most of his formative years in Canada.

Ensconced among his party colleagues, a few dozen children from nearby villages and impoverished middle-aged men, all Muslims, Mr. Choudhury says his English or even his Bengali — which too has an accent — is not an issue. “As long as people know me as the nephew of A.B.A. Ghani Khan Choudhury, winning in Sujapur is not an issue,” he says.

Isha Khan Choudhury is the son of Ghani Khan’s youngest brother.

If there is only one seat that the Congress-Left alliance is confident of winning, it is Sujapur as history backs the Congress. Ghani Khan Choudhury had won in the seat for the first time in 1951. In 1957, he lost it to an Independent, but the Congress took it back in 1962 without Ghani Khan, who started nurturing his interest in national politics. “In 1967, I changed my mind to contest from Sujapur,” Ghani Khan told this correspondent in 1997. And the seat has stayed with the Congress. “In fact, Sujapur has stayed with the Congress since 1962, for over 50 years,” says Isha Khan.

“It is true, he does not need to campaign, he will win,” says the Haji Saheb of Muralipara, Ekrajuddin Haji.

No wonder, Congress president Sonia Gandhi echoed this point at the start of her speech in Malda on Wednesday. “One cannot separate Malda and Barkatda [as Ghani Khan is fondly called]. Barkatda is the Congress and the Congress is Barkatda in Malda,” Ms. Gandhi said.

Barkatda had won five elections from Sujapur and went to Delhi from Malda and served in Indira Gandhi’s Cabinet as Railway Minister.

“And it is during this period that Barkatda had done some outstanding work for Malda,” said Zillur Rahman, chief of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind in Malda. “He had never indulged in any communal politics, and had provided jobs to both Hindus and Muslims — across political parties — in government departments,” Mr. Rahman says.

As one strolls down the long lane connecting Muralipara to the arterial road of Sujapur, a different story unfolds, though restricted to the Choudhury family.

Barkat Ghani Khan Choudhury’s younger brother Abu Nasar Khan Choudhury, fondly called Lebu, is contesting against his nephew Isha. He has support aplenty. Mr. Chowdhury won in Sujapur as a Congress candidate in 2011. Later, he joined the Trinamool Congress.

His supporters are jubilant. “This is the first time you see Trinamool flags in Muralipara,” says Md. Shafiul Hoque, who runs a grocery store.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 12:24:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/westbengal2016/in-sujapur-its-all-in-barkatdas-family/article8478219.ece

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