MALDA: It’s been over three decades since the death of Congress leader ABA Gani Khan Choudhury. But even today, tourists visiting Malda in West Bengal stop by the seven-time former MP’s home. They come to take selfies at the palatial house of Gani Khan, popularly known as Barkatda.
Unknown to them, a political storm is brewing and it threatens to engulf his legacy. A bitter family feud at Choudhury’s palatial house in Kotwali, the epicentre of politics in Malda district, has turned family members into political rivals. The gainer in this whole sordid saga is the BJP.
From Malda (South) seat, Barkatda’s younger brother, Congress candidate Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury, is taking on Trinamool’s Mohammad Moazzem Hossain and BJP’s Sreerupa Mitra Chowdhury. Gani Khan’s niece Mausam Benazir Noor, who defected to the Trinamool, is contesting against her cousin Isha Khan Choudhury of the Congress from Malda (North). Isha is the son of Abu Hasem.
The cracks in the family are so deep that Mausam demolished part of the boundary wall of the palace and built a new gate to avoid using the main entrance that Isha uses.
Three contestants from one family have also made the electors critical.
“If she (Mausam) is not loyal to Barkat sahib’s ideology, why should we be loyal to her?’’ questions Tapan Roy, owner of a mango grove spread over 10 acres.
The seasonal fruit controls 25 per cent of Malda’s economy and provides a livelihood to four lakh people. For the first time, there is a demand to revive the mango industry in Malda.
Last year, Roy and hundred others staged a protest on NH -12 by dumping quintals of mangoes after the market price dropped to Rs 2 from Rs 10 per kg. But they never thought of making it a political issue.
“We didn’t because of our loyalty to Barkatda. Mousam is a traitor,” said Ratan Samanta, another mango grove owner.The demand for setting up cold-stores for mangoes and a juice processing unit has been overlooked by all previous and the current government.
Four-wheel goods vehicles displaying photographs of Gani Khan and Isha Khan were seen traversing in villages with loudspeakers blaring Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s recorded speech hitting out at Mausam for changing her colour. Once the recorded speech is over, a person operating the sound device plugs in his cellphone to play Aaj Mausam bada beiman hai—a 1973 chartbuster that has been turned into a political tool to portray the Trinamool candidate’s betrayal.
Around 49 per cent electors in Malda (North) are Muslims while in the adjoining seat the number is 54 per cent. The BJP had increased its vote share by 8.7 per cent in 2014 and is all set to give the Congress a tough fight on both the seats.
The BJP is banking on consolidated Hindu votes and the split in the minority votes among the Trinamool and the Congress. The party has made inroads in tribal-inhabited areas as well. If not victorious, the BJP is hoping to move to the second position in Malda (North) seat. The party is already in the second position in the other constituency.
The issues of Mausam’s betrayal and nationalism were prominent in Gaur, a historical city on the Bangladesh-India border. Locals are upset with the lack of government initiative to turn the city into a popular tourist destination.
“I will have to leave the place before sunset. I wanted to spend some more time here with my children, but the local people told me it would not be safe,’’ said Ranjan Debnath, an employee of a nationalised bank in Sujapur.
The road leading to the tourist spot is not wide enough to accommodate two buses.
“After sunset, the area is taken over by addicts. The state government did nothing to develop the area. Last time, I voted for the Congress. This time my choice is the BJP,’’ said Gopal Mondal, 45, a shop owner.
A day after the air strikes on Pakistan, Gaur residents had celebrated with crackers and candles.
“After the air strikes, many who do not understand the English language were all seated in front of a television set when the three chiefs of armed forces held a Press conference in Delhi. First-time voters like me will vote for the BJP,’’ said Sushanta Ghosh, a first-year student and civil services aspirant.
Realising a tough battle ahead, all candidates, apart from BJP contestants, are claiming to be the flag bearers of Gani Khan’s legacy. A close look at the 2014 poll results shows the legacy of the former Congress heavyweight is fading as Mausam’s vote share dropped by 14.37 per cent.
Campaigning for the third phase ends
Campaigning for the third phase of polling in 116 parliamentary constituencies on April 23 ended Sunday with top leaders making a last-gasp effort to sway voters in favour of their respective parties.
Polling will be held in 115 seats, spread across 14 States and Union Territories. PM Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and a host of Union ministers among others canvassed for their party candidates.
Among the key contestants in the fray are BJP chief Amit Shah (Gandhinagar), Congress president Rahul Gandhi (Wayanad) and SP patron Mulayam Singh Yadav (Mainpuri).
BJP announces its Indore candidate
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Rahul Gandhi or Raul Vinci, asks Yogi
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Sunday accused Congress president Rahul Gandhi of fooling the country with his “fake name” and said he is known as ‘Raul Vinci’ in Britain and Italy.
Addressing a poll meeting at Ghatampur in Kanpur Dehat, Adityanath said, “The ‘naamdar’ of Congress... In reality, he is not Rahul Gandhi. The country has been fooled... His name is Raul Vinci. I am astonished that Congress is committing this sin of fooling the nation. The real names of Rahul and Priyanka should come before people. In Britain and Italy he is Raul Vinci and in India becomes Rahul.”