The Telegraph
Friday , March 7 , 2014
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After TET, election test

- Councillor at 26, Left’s LS candidate at 29

She doesn’t consider “US imperialism” to be the biggest threat to mankind or the dynamics of class struggle her prime concern. She prefers Tagore to Marx and Engels and makes no bones about it.

Rinku Naskar is not your average CPM Lok Sabha candidate, and not just because she is 29 in a party of grey-haired veterans.

Rinku was busy preparing for the Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) slated for March 30 when the party bosses at Alimuddin Street named her their candidate for the Mathurapur Lok Sabha seat in South 24-Parganas.

The Left Front leadership was apparently so impressed with her performance as a first-time councillor representing ward number 102 of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation that they decided she was a better choice for the parliamentary election than some more experienced — and twice as older — contenders.

“I am a little surprised but very happy too. As a councillor, I work hard, always listen to what the people say and try to address their problems,” Rinku told Metro at her father’s small living quarters on the campus of KS Roy TB Hospital in Jadavpur, where he works in the superintendent’s office.

The 29-year-old post-graduate in Bengali may have a recruitment exam to sit for in three weeks’ time — she is among the lakhs of candidates aspiring for a school teaching job — but her party would rather see her pass the electoral test against sitting MP Choudhury Mohan Jatua of the Trinamul Congress.

Rinku is among the 18 electoral rookies on the CPM’s Lok Sabha list and the second youngest after Sk Ibrahim Ali, the party’s candidate for Tamluk.

“We have tried to put up more young faces this time,” said Sujan Chakraborty, a member of the CPM state secretariat and the party’s candidate for the Jadavpur.

The shift from decades of geriatric bias seems to have been triggered by competition from new-age challengers like the Aam Aadmi Party, which is focused on fresh faces to woo an increasingly younger electorate.

In Bengal, about 2.07 crore out of a total of 6.24 crore voters will be exercising their franchise for the first time in the general elections.

Women voters comprise 2.99 crore of the electorate, whose support the Left hopes to garner by raising its representation of women to six candidates, though that is only half the strength of Trinamul’s. In Rinku, they have the epitome of the working-class woman who battles her way through life to fulfil her dreams and help others achieve theirs.

Raised in Canning, around 40km from Calcutta, Rinku did her graduation in Bengali from the erstwhile Presidency College before moving to Rabindra Bharati University for her master’s degree.

At Presidency, she wasn’t “much into politics” and attended only one rally in three years. “I became active in politics only when I enrolled as a DYFI member after leaving college,” she recalled.

The turning point was contesting and winning a municipal seat in 2010. But what caught the party leadership’s eye was her conduct.

Unlike some of the other young faces of the party, Rinku is known to maintain a low profile. An Alimuddin Street insider said “the ability to lie low” was one of the factors that earned her the Lok Sabha ticket. “She can mix with people living in the highrises of Jadavpur and with the poor with the same ease. She has the honesty of a young leader willing to learn,” he said.

Rinku doesn’t want to be drawn into any discussion about the Left trying to shed old stereotypes or whether it can stay relevant in Indian politics. The only thing on her mind is the responsibility thrust on her and the need to repay that trust.

“I have never been to Delhi,” she said with a smile. “Hopefully, I will this time.”

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