The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Well-versed vote seeker
Husband's bulwark to break into a Trinamul stronghold
...A committed contractor of culture, this place is run by a few Marxist intellectuals/With protesting pens kept in their shirt frontpockets like hidden, loaded revolvers /Ready to fire at fashion parades, Bangla bands and the likes of Raveena Tandon...

Haldia/Mahishadal, April 21: Even the CPM in this port town is at times scared of her, because of, among other things, the poems she writes.

Here's why.

'Five-and-a-half thousand light years away from the planet earth/Next to Mars is a red-hued satellite housing the central office/A committed contractor of culture, this place is run by a few Marxist intellectuals/With protesting pens kept in their shirt frontpockets like hidden, loaded revol- vers/Ready to fire at fashion parades, Bangla bands and the likes of Raveena Tandon/You can't miss them, they wear watches inside the wrists/Democratic, sure they are/But with little faith in the freedom of the pen.'

The works of Tamalika Panda Seth, 50, the chairperson of the Haldia Municipal Corporation and the CPM candidate in the Mahishadal Assembly constituency, a virtual Trinamul Congress bailiwick, often constitute a source of discomfort for the East Midnapore CPM leadership and the Alimuddin Street party headquarters.

Angered at being targeted by Tamalika, the Ganatantrik Lekhak Shilpi Sangha, an in-fluential CPM affiliate in culture, took its complaint to the party's top bosses, especially Anil Biswas, who had mentored her till his last day.

'Oke likhte din (let her write),' was Biswas's terse reply. 'If I find that her poems are actually hurting us, I will tell her myself.'

Tamalika loves to be known as nothing else but a poet. But, if truth be told, her primary colour is that of a politician. 'Me in the election, crazy or what' I have done my bit in politics, now I have to put my schoolgoing son's interests above everything,' Tamalika, the mother of two children, had commented when the district CPM bosses informed her of their decision to put her up.

Biswas summoned her to Alimuddin Street. 'I hope you have heard we have chosen you as our nominee for Mahishadal. Go, get ready, and get the seat back for us.' The meeting was over. Tamalika returned home happy because her objective of making a strong statement to the district leadership stood fulfilled.

'Don't provoke me into saying things,' she told The Telegraph.

'The umbrella (Biswas) I used to have over my head is no longer there.'

'She conveyed to the district leader- ship that she is big, because she has a line going to Alimuddin Street which alone can decide on her,' said an aide.

Will Tamalika's image of a poet-protester and her husband's organisation and other resources be enough to prise open Trinamul's hold on Mahishadal'

True, the sit- ting Trinamul MLA, Deepak Ghosh, who won the seat in 2001 ' when, unlike now, Mamata's popularity was at its peak ' by over 7,500 votes, is away in Jadavpur, fighting against chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

But, historically, Mahishadal has a bias against communists, which flows from its association with the freedom movement. Each of the nearly 100 villages spread across 85 square kilometres has families whose members either died or suffered while participating in the freedom movement.

With help from Lakshman Seth and the party, Tamalika is trying, and not without success, to mop up support from the constituency of freedom fighters. 'We have been able to convince them that we honour that phase in the life of Mahishadal.'

The message is also being spread that if Tamalika wins, East Midnapore will get a minister.

Trinamul candidate Buddhadeb Bhowmick's fight is actually with Lakshman Seth and his network of CPM and Citu workers, scores of NGOs and neighbourhood clubs.

'As of now I am confident of retaining the seat, but the CPM's money power is scary,' said Bhowmick. A well-known doctor's son, Buddhadeb is believed to have been chiefly responsible for Deepak Ghosh's victory.

Seth and Co. thinks Mahishadal is for them to remake because voters have been switching sides since the last Assembly elections.

For instance, Lakshman Seth had secured a 492-vote lead from the Mahishadal segment of his Lok Sabha constituency after wiping out the margin of 7,800 by which Deepak Ghosh had won in 2001.

It's not that simple. Unlike 2001, the Naxalites, who secured nearly 1,400 votes, have stayed out. The Congress has fielded a weak candidate.

A clutch of small parties like the SUCI and a section of CPM dissidents, who have scores to settle with the Seths, have come together to put up roadblocks before the poet who wants to be an MLA.

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