If charity begins at home, politics apparently starts in the family.
Civic Election 2010 has thrown up a Metiabruz family that is a melting pot of poll rivalries — two brothers fielded by rival parties in adjacent wards, a sister contesting a neighbouring seat under the banner of another party, a daughter-in-law in the fray in a fourth ward and a daughter who withdrew her nomination for the same seat at the last minute.
The man at the helm of this political hotchpotch is 55-year-old Shamsuzzaman Ansari, a four-time Trinamul Congress councillor from ward 135 who has been forced out of his stronghold, though not out of the poll, by the women’s reservation rule.
Shamsuzzaman is contesting ward 136 on a Trinamul ticket this election, leaving ward 135 to his 22-year-old daughter-in-law Rubina Nazz. Daughter Shayestha Begum was also eyeing that seat after being offered a Congress ticket but her father allegedly used his clout to get the party — he was once a Congress member — to pressure her into withdrawing from the contest.
Another member of the Ansari clan — Shamsuzzaman’s 50-year-old brother Alhaj Mohammed Amin Ansari — is the CPM nominee for ward 137, while their sister, Sajida Banu, is the CPI’s chosen one for ward 141.
So how do the political faultlines within the family affect personal relationships?
“Rubina and I are on good terms. We are even friends with the CPI candidate from our area (21-year-old Zarina Aziz, the youngest Left Front nominee in any election till date) because we are in the same age group. It could have been a good fight but I accepted the party’s decision to withdraw my candidature,” said Shayestha, a homemaker.
All may be well between the sisters-in-law but the Ansari brothers do have more than just political differences.
“We exchange greetings during family get-togethers. But we don’t see each other much, although our children maintain contact,” said Amin.
The youngest among eight Ansari siblings, Amin was elected from ward 137 as an Independent candidate in 1995 but was forced to field wife Sarvar Jahan in the next two polls because of the women’s reservation rule. She won on both occasions.
With the ward being declared “general” again, Sarvar is giving her husband a second shot at the seat that seems to have become a family preserve.
“My political ideology has been different from my brother’s from the very beginning. I have always believed in Leftist ideals while Shamsuzzaman has opposite views,” said Amin.
The binding factor between the bickering brothers is their sister Sajida Banu, who is contesting an election for the first time from ward 141 on a CPI ticket.
“Politics apart, we try to keep our family united. Although Shamsuzzaman and Amin don’t think alike, I make sure their differences don’t affect relationships within the family. Shamsuzzaman may not like me contesting on a CPI ticket but I will ensure that my political choices don’t affect our brother-sister equation,” said 51-year-old Sajida, a law graduate with a PhD in Urdu.
The Ansari brothers’ children not only look up to their multi-faceted aunt but also bank on her to play peacemaker whenever Shamsuzzaman and Amin’s differences create trouble in the family. “My father and uncle may not see eye to eye but both love our aunt very much and listen to her,” smiled Shamsuzzaman’s son Imran.
Another family fight, though smaller in scale, is the one between Aparajita Dasgupta, 49, the sitting councillor for ward 49 in Sealdah, and her brother Basudev Banerjee, 58.
Aparajita had won the seat in 2005 on a Congress ticket but switched allegiance to Trinamul, following in the footsteps of her mentor Somen Mitra. Basudev is now the Congress candidate. The siblings’ father, Binoy Banerjee, was a Congress loyalist.
Pictures by: Anindya Shankar Ray, Pabitra Das, Pradip Sanyal, Sanat Kumar Sinha, Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya and Tamaghna Banerjee