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Purnea misses chalk & cheese

- Residents recollect war between Ajit Sarkar & Pappu Yadav
The deserted CPM office in Purnea. Once the epicentre of Ajit Sarkar’s work, the premises is now a picture of neglect. A photograph of Sarkar hangs in one of the rooms of the party office. Pictures by Dipak Mishra

The office of the CPM near Jhanda Chowk used to hum with activities during elections when CPM MLA Ajit Sarkar was alive.

Today, the office wears a deserted and dilapidated look. The party has not even fielded a candidate from Purnea as most of its cadres, including his wife and former MLA Madhavi Sarkar, have left it to join the CPI-ML (Liberation).

The office still flaunts photographs of the murdered MLA on its walls. The lone inhabitant at this address is Anurag Kumar Singh, a student at a local engineering college. “A couple of local CPM leaders come here once or twice a week. But that is about all,” he said.

“This election is being contested with Pappu Yadav leaving Purnea and Pappu Singh contesting as a BJP candidate. Ajit had strongly opposed Pappu Yadav and even refused to share the stage with him. In the 1998 Lok Sabha polls he refused to follow his party’s order to back Pappu Yadav from Purnea. Instead, he supported Pappu Singh, then contesting on a Congress ticket. Ajit got expelled from the party for his rebellion. The election saw Pappu Yadav’s defeat from Purnea for the first time. The BJP candidate won. Ajitda was murdered a few months after the results,” said Ibrahim Ahmad, who runs a tailoring shop in the locality.

“Now that Pappu Yadav has left Purnea, it is ironical that Ajitda is no longer here,” Ahmad said.

The CPM finds it hard to defend its decision not to field a candidate. Ajit’s son Amit Sarkar, who had contested the Assembly polls from Purnea, has left the country to rejoin his job in Austria.

The strong CPM unit that Ajit had set up disintegrated after his death. In the very first Assembly election after Ajit’s death, his widow Madhavi Sarkar contested on a CPI-ML (Liberation) ticket and brother Pradeep Sarkar on a CPM ticket. Both lost. The party is not even a shadow of what it was in Ajit’s time.

“We did not field a candidate from here for economic reasons. Madhavi did not follow the party’s guidelines and was expelled. But we have been fighting for justice for Ajit Sarkar. We petitioned the Supreme Court against Pappu Yadav’s acquittal in the murder case. We hope the CBI will be honest enough to fight the case in the apex court. But Ajit Sarkar’s legacy lives on. If Pappu Yaddav had to leave Purnea it was because he knew he would be unacceptable here after Ajitda’s murder,” said the CPM’s district head Sunil Kumar Singh.

Ajit’s family faces a lot of anxiety. The family stays in the late MLA’s Durgawari Mohalla house.

“We fail to understand how a murderer can move about freely after remaining in jail for over a decade. It haunts the people of Purnea,” said Tarun Bose, the slain MLA’s brother-in-law. Actor Amir Khan had raised the same question in his Satyamev Jayate series recently. It has to be a systemic failure, he had declared.

Bose declared that Pappu Yadav was a criminal and patronised criminals as a politician. “Ajitda revealed several letters sent by Pappu Yadav to the police, asking them to release people involved in all sorts of criminal cases,” Bose said. If Purnea has become a safer place to live in and fight elections from it is because Pappu Yadav was in jail for a decade. The criminals left Purnea. But now that he is out, the danger of Purnea returning to its dark days is real, Bose said. He dismissed charges that Ajit created anarchy by forcefully occupying land. “Ajitda never took private land away from anybody. He only occupied government and ceiling land and ensured that the downtrodden made their homes there. Even today, people in these localities swear by Ajitda”, Bose said.

 

Kanki is a tiny place on the southern outskirts of the Kishanganj Lok Sabha constituency but isn’t a part of the seat. Located only 7km from the
main Kishanganj bazaar, on the Kishanganj-Purnea highway, it is a part of Bengal’s Raiganj Lok Sabha seat.

It is from this seat that Union minister of state and Congress candidate Deepa Das Munshi is seeking a re-election. She is locked in a triangular contest with Trinamul’s

Pavitra Ranjan Das Munshi — also her husband Priya Ranjan Das Munshi’s brother — and the Forward Bloc’s Mohammad Shameem.
When Kishanganj and Purnea (for that matter any part of Bihar) are offering little photo opportunity, Kanki, around 400km northeast of Patna, is providing it aplenty.

Deepa’s small party office in the tiny place offered The Telegraph far more colour, enthusiasm, posters, banners and procession — typical sights during an election.

It was hard to find proper election pictures while travelling through the four Lok Sabha seats going to the polls on April 24 — Bhagalpur, Banka, Purnea and Kishanganj. On the contrary, this place by the highway offered a lot of colour in far less time. It gave opportunity for pictures apt to communicate the colour of elections.

Many Lok Sabha constituencies in Bihar refused to give what Kanki gave so quickly and effortlessly. It is hard to make out who are the candidates in Kishanganj, which is devoid of posters and banners.

It is not known if Deepa will win Raiganj, but few can miss her imposing presence in the banners, posters, slogans and processions at Kanki.

Congress’s Asrarul Haque might win the Kishanganj seat, but he is hardly visible.

 

l Purnea votes on April 24