ASANSOL: Four decades after she faded from the silver screen and shunned all forms of public contact thereafter, legendary Bengali film actress Suchitra Sen still lives on in many posters in Asansol seat from where her daughter Moon Moon Sen is contesting as a Trinamool candidate.
The other two faces which feature on the party’s posters dotting the lanes and bylanes here are those of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the candidate herself.
Sen had defeated CPM heavyweight Basudeb Acharya, a nine-time MP, in Bankura in 2014. But this time, Mamata asked her to take on Union minister Babul Supriyo in Asansol, who had won last time with a margin of 70,000 votes.
Trinamool sources said Sen’s performance in Bankura might not have been good enough to secure another victory, and that’s the reason why veteran Subrata Mukherjee has taken her place.
Supriyo, a singer-turned-politician, has taken up the challenge and has been highlighting Sen’s failures as an MP in Bankura, contrasting it with his performance.
He issued a 17-page account of his work and project details, mentioning the breakup of the expenditure from MP’s area development fund received in the past five years.
“My party selected me for a second consecutive time because I delivered. If people give me a chance again, I will keep delivering,’’ he said.
While Sen hardly talks about her plans for Asansol in her campaign, Supriyo has been unveiling his plans for the constituency, if re-elected.
The BJP made heavy inroads into Asansol, registering a vote share of 31.19% in 2014 Lok Sabha polls while Trinamool suffered a dip of 9.95%. The CPM failed to retain the seat after seven terms, its vote bank eroding by 26.3%.
Locals say the fight would have been tougher had the Trinamool fielded a better candidate with enough political experience to take on Supriyo.
“Her (Sen’s) mother’s glory and fame is her only tool to fight the battle while Supriyo has gone all-out to combat her politically,’’ said Suresh Agarwal.
Asansol has a considerable chunk of Hindi speaking voters who have migrated from neighbouring Jharkhand and Bihar. The ‘Sen’ factor counts for little with them.
The Lok Sabha constituency and part of its adjoining Burdhaman-Durgapur segments were known for heavy industries, but many of them were shut down during the Left rule and lie abandoned today.
The Mining and Allied Machinery Corporation, spread over hundreds of acres, was inaugurated by Jawahar Lal Nehru and visited by Lal Bahadur Shastri. The unit collapsed in 2002. Similarly, the Hooghly Mills Projects and Hindustan Cables are a thing of the past.
Supriyo said workers of Hindustan Cables got their dues after he took the initiative.
“All candidates who have contested from here handed voters many a false promise that they would help re-open the factories, but did nothing,” he said.
Part of Asansol’s adjoining Bardhaman-Durgapur constituency also suffers because of a bumper crop, but no buyers.
The distress of farmers is a burning issue that can queer Trinamool’s pitch to retain the seat at a time when the BJP has been on the upswing. The BJP has fielded S S Ahluwalia, who was elected from Darjeeling in 2014, to take on Trinamool’s Mumtaz Sanghamita.
The Burdwan district produces around 16 lakh metric tons of rice every year but just 4 lakh ton is procured by the government. The farmers are forced to sell the rest at much lower prices and suffer losses.
Recently, the state government decided to restrict middlemen from procuring rice from farmers. But surprisingly, instead of supporting the move, farmers sat in protest.
“I am entitled to sell 60 quintals of rice directly to the government. But I produce around 500 quintals every season. The middlemen buy from me at lower prices but I have no option. If they do not buy, what will I do with my production?” wondered Asish Sarkar of Monteshwar village.