The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Poser for party of the poor

Howrah, Oct. 15: A six-month-old girl’s death has taught her father, an unlettered van-puller of a Howrah slum, a lesson: “Kahe je bistor, baje se kahe (One who speaks a lot speaks nonsense).”

It’s a lesson chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was giving the day the high court stayed the rally-curb ruling in response to a question why he had kept silent since Justice Amitava Lala’s order.

Twenty-four hours after burying baby daughter Shabana, Ashraf Khan was asking if the party that protested the most for the poor really meant all that it said.

The chief minister had broken into poetry in apparent welcome of the stay that restored the “right” to hold rallies any place, any time. At Ashraf’s cramped central Howrah home, the mood was very different but the talk kept coming back to meeting-michhil.

A “natural” supporter of the CPM, Ashraf lost his daughter after getting stuck on the way to hospital because of a rally brought by the party’s youth wing on Monday.

Several members of the extended Khan clan — an old mother, siblings and their immediate families — have voted for the CPM in election after election.

“I myself have voted for the lal party (the CPM or any other Left Front partner in its absence) several times,” Ashraf said, adding that only once had he voted for “phool” (the Trinamul Congress).

Neighbours say the Khans have stuck out because of their pro-Left stance in debates in a neighbourhood that has consistently voted for anti-Left Front candidates in the past few elections. The local MLA, Ambica Banerjee, belongs to Trinamul and the councillor is a Congress member.

Ashraf and some of his neighbours voted Left as he thought it “represented people like him”.

Despite being unwilling to discuss politics, Ashraf said: “Woh to garibon ka party kehlate hain (They are called the party of the poor).”

Ashraf has not heard the chief minister say empty pots make the loudest noise. He is wondering all the same.

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