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High on count, low on credibility

The last time Gourabh Dasgupta had set out to vote in a civic election, he reached the booth but fell short of the ballot box.

“A proxy voter beat me to it in 2005 but I won’t let anyone steal my vote this time. I will be in the queue by 7am on May 30,” vows 34-year-old Dasgupta, a resident of Raja Subodh Chandra Mullick Road under ward 101.

Proxy voting is allegedly the name of the game in this high-turnout ward of 30,999 registered voters living in a swathe of middle-class localities stretching from Baghajatin More to Baghajatin station.

The areas under the ward include the EM Bypass connector (locally known as 45 connector), a part of Ganguly Bagan and Raja Subodh Chandra Mullick Road.

According to records available with the State Election Commission, the voter turnout in 2005 was 91 per cent with sitting councillor Chandana Ghosh Dastidar of the Left Front polling close to 81 per cent of these votes. The previous two elections — in 1995 and 2000 — had also witnessed a high turnout of over 83 per cent.

“Residents of this ward are politically very aware. They do not want to waste their votes, which is why they come out in hordes and vote for our party,” insists councillor Ghosh Dastidar.

Opposition supporters rubbish the claim. “People come out to vote in large numbers when there is a wave against the current establishment. It’s hard to digest the claim that people are voting in such high numbers in favour of a party whose performance has been abysmal,” said a Trinamul leader.

Civic problems like bad roads, monsoon flooding and poor sewerage have been plaguing ward 101 ever since the Left Front wrested the seat in the mid-Eighties. Residents allege that electoral malpractice in every civic poll since has ensured that the seat remains a Left bastion.

So would May 30 change anything given the alleged history of proxy voting in the ward?

According to an aide of the Trinamul candidate, Mritunjay Mondol, the only way for voters to ensure that someone else doesn’t cast their vote is to queue up in the first hour itself.

The attempt to bring about change is visible across the ward, though CPM banners and posters still outnumber that of the Trinamul Congress.

“People are scared to discuss it openly but this election is a chance to not only foil proxy voting but also change things in our ward,” says a resident of Baghajatin who has seen three elections.

For Gourabh Dasgupta, who deals in fans, change also means breaking his late-rising habit for at least a day.

Ward 101

Areas: Baghajatin and EM Bypass Connector

Rivals: Chandana Ghosh Dastidar (CPM) vs Mritunjay Mondol (Trinamul)

Number of voters: 30,999

Voting percentage: 91 (2005)

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