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Problems multiple, Sens three

Bankura, April 15: Roads, employment, water and midday meals top their wishlist, but Mejia and Durlabhpur had only stars in their eyes today as Moon Moon Sen hit the Bankura campaign trail with star daughters Raima and Riya.

An Adivasi dance troupe ahead of the open jeep with a “Toy Soldier 5” sticker on the bonnet, a brass band at the back, a dhol party to the right and jhumur singers to the left added colour, song and rhythm to the roadshow that saw a crowd of men, women and children trail the trio for four hours.

Mother and daughters were dressed for the occasion and the climate — Trinamul candidate Moon Moon in a green Byloom sari pinned to her shoulder with a pretty Swarovski crystal-peacock pin brooch and siblings Raima and Riya in light cotton salwars in blue and white that they had picked up from the newly opened Bengal handlooms store at the airport.

The trio smiled, waved and shook hands with whoever reached out to them as the campaign caravan made its way through the two stretches leading to Bankura, where Moon Moon is set to file her nomination on Wednesday.

Riya and Raima had paid a quick visit to a nearby Kali temple before setting out with their mother in the open-top jeep bedecked with flowers and party flags.

The 18-member Jhankaar Band kick-started the procession at Mejiya, an industrial belt 28km from Bankura, with a round of patriotic songs ranging from Sare jahan se achha to Dhonodhanye pushpe bhora. The Adivasi dancers upped the tempo by dancing atop a van to a recorded version of a Trinamul song that went Elo re shobuj gelo re lal, rendered in jhumur style.

As the caravan, steered by Trinamul supporters on foot and motorbikes, wound its way through the narrow lanes, cries of “Oi toh Raima (There is Raima)!” and “Oi toh Riya (There is Riya)!” rose from the din. Many of the stargazers sprinted alongside the jeep while some tried to come closer to go click-click with their mobile phone cameras, only to lose their sandals in the scramble.

Faces appeared on the balconies and terraces, some ran out of their shops and mothers held up their babies for a quick pat from the stars even as a team of 146 civic police personnel and commandos struggled to keep the crowd at bay.

“We are battling a drinking water crisis. Many of our health problems arise from the contaminated water we drink,” said 38-year-old Shanti Mondal, as if she were reminding herself that there were more pressing problems than the struggle to see the Sen trio up close.

Shanti and her sister-in-law Dolly Banerjee had rushed out of their home in the middle of their household chores for a glimpse of Moon Moon and her daughters.

Onek diner dekhar ichhe (We were eager to see them from close for a long time),” Shanti said with a smile.

Contractor Bibhi Sural, 52, was among those who trailed the trio for as long as his weary feet allowed him to. He cited unemployment as “a big issue here in this coal belt”, among other grievances. “The bypass hasn’t been completed either and the interior roads need to be built as well,” he said.

But Sural admitted that his Poila Boisakh couldn’t be better. “I had no work today, so I thought why not join the procession.”

The marketplace got busier and the trail longer as the sun set and vans carrying floodlights came on to shine the spotlight on the star trio who had braved four hours of heat, dust and frenzy to greet everyone with folded hands.

Soon after the roadshow passed his textile shop in Durlabhpur, around 30km from Bankura town, and the fan frenzy had died down, 30-something Siddhartha Mukherjee said Moon Moon needed to “intensify” her campaign.

“Unlike her main adversary (Basudeb Acharia of the CPM), she has not yet started a door-to-door campaign, particularly in the villages. We have seen Acharia spending hours every day in the villages,” he said.

But Trinamul worker Samir Pramanik, who had walked 15km from his village Bishinda to Durlabhpur to catch a glimpse of Moon Moon and her daughters, said he was sure of victory. “She will win easily. People want change in Bankura.”

Today was the trailer for what promises to be a mega Trinamul show with 30,000 supporters tomorrow when Moon Moon files her nomination.