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No cakewalk for Pranab

Indrani Dutta

Jangipur was just a speck on the country’s map until senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee won his first Lok Sabha seat in 2004, defeating Abul Hasnat Khan of the CPI (M).

Since then, this predominantly rural and semi-urban constituency, some 60 km from Baharampur in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district, has been much in the news.

People of this area take pride in the fact that they decide the fate of one of the country’s most influential politicians. Mr. Mukherjee will be taking on Mriganka Bhattacharyya of the CPI(M) this time from Jangipur.

Familiar to people

Mr. Bhattacharyya, chairman of the Jangipur Municipality for several terms, is regarded by many locals as a man-of-action.

Well-known to the electorate, he is predictably basing his campaign on his ‘familiarity and closeness.’

So, if the catchline in Mr. Mukherjee’s campaign is ‘kachcher manus, kajer manus’ (a man close-at-hand, a-man-of-action) for Mr. Bhattacharyya, it is simply ‘gharer manus’ (a-man-about-the-house). The emphasis is on his residency in Jangipur — something that his opponent cannot boast of. Indeed, Mr. Mukherjee has said that while he had tried to do his best in five years, he could not do more, since he had to be away.

The central issue for both the candidates is development, alongside specific issues such as checking erosion caused by the Ganga and the Padma rivers. Large sections of the electorate feel Mr. Mukherjee has largely fulfilled the promises made in 2004. The beedi workers of the Jangipur Assembly segment, seem particularly happy that a senior Congress leader has tried to help the region, earlier marked by exploitation and abject poverty.

Jangipur constituency is a Muslim-majority one. Following delimitation, several Assembly segments have been included here and some of these are causing worry to Mr. Mukherjee and his poll-managers.

Parts of Farakka and Aurangabad have been carved out and Lalgola and parts of Baharampur brought in.

Some of the new areas are those where the May 2008 panchayat elections did not throw up very good results for the Congress. Naturally, these areas receive greater attention from Mr. Mukherjee. Incidentally, since 1977, Jangipur has sent a Congress candidate to Lok Sabha only twice.

In 2004, Mr. Mukherjee got 48.8 per cent of the vote, pipping two-time sitting-MP Abu Hasnat Khan of the CPI(M), who polled 44.7 per cent, by a margin of 36,860 votes.

Close fight

Just 90 km from the battlefields of Plassey, where the Nawab of Bengal and the British fought for supremacy, the lines have been drawn for another battle. Indications are that it will not be a cakewalk for Mr. Mukherjee and a close fight is predicted.

People say that ‘Mrigankababu’ may not have his high-profile opponent’s charisma nor position, but is well regarded.

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