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regular-article-logo Saturday, 15 June 2024

Duare councillor: Think Delhi, go local

Trinamool candidates in the city said the role of councillors was “crucial” this time. A senior leader said this was a major shift from earlier Lok Sabha polls when MLAs would drive the campaigns

Sanjay Mandal, Subhajoy Roy, Snehal Sengupta Calcutta Published 27.05.24, 07:50 AM
Trinamool Kolkata South candidate Mala Roy on the campaign trail with Calcutta mayor Firhad Hakim.

Trinamool Kolkata South candidate Mala Roy on the campaign trail with Calcutta mayor Firhad Hakim. Telegraph picture

Residents of a neighbourhood in Kasba in south-east Calcutta found the local Trinamool Congress councillor at their doorstep a couple of weeks ago.

“I know there is a shortage of potable water in your lane. We are sorting it out. Are there any other problems that you have been facing? Are you satisfied with my work?” asked the councillor.

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Don’t mistake this for a Kolkata Municipal Corporation election. This is all for the Lok Sabha polls.

The conversation ended with the councillor appealing: “Vote-ta kintu ebar amader prarthi Sayani Ghosh-ke deben (This time cast your vote for our candidate Sayani Ghosh).”

Sayani is the Trinamool Congress candidate from the Jadavpur Lok Sabha seat.

The Kasba councillor is not alone. Across Calcutta and its fringes, councillors who have better reach locally have emerged as the frontline campaigners. The issues that they are harping on are hyperlocal, far removed from the larger national planks that find amplification on various platforms.

Mayor Firhad Hakim, the state urban development and municipal affairs minister, said: “I have asked all our councillors to go door-to-door on their own and ask people if they have any problems.”

Trinamool candidates in the city said the role of councillors was “crucial” this time. A senior leader said this was a major shift from earlier Lok Sabha polls when MLAs would drive the campaigns.

Earlier, councillors would be seen accompanying candidates in their areas and arranging crowds for street-corner meetings.

“This time, we are focusing on the development work done by Mamata Banerjee’s government at the micro level. ‘Duare Sarkar’ has been a huge success, which we think will impact the polls,” said the leader. “National issues are there but highlighting development work that has impacted lives in the neighbourhoods is also very important.”

So, bad roads, water sh­ortage, and eligibility for the Swa­sthya Sathi health cards are some of the issues now. There are also promises to ensure easier access to some of the state government’s welfare schemes, like Lakshmir Bhandar, and old-age pension.

Across the city — Bhowanipore, Park Street, Sovabazar, Kasba and Salt Lake, Baranagar, Behala, you name it — councillors are promising what they have failed to deliver in many years for the sake of Lok Sabha votes.

Mala Roy, the Trinamool candidate from Kolkata South, has inducted councillors of 58 wards in her constituency in her core campaign team. There are 59 Kolkata Municipal Corporation wards under the Kolkata South seat. Of these, only one ward has an Opposition councillor.

“This is the first time we have inducted all 58 councillors in the steering committee for my election campaign,” said KMC chairperson Roy, herself the councillor of ward No. 88.

“I have been a councillor since 1995. When I became councillor, there was a huge water shortage, which I got resolved over time,” she said.

KMC ward no. 70 councillor Ashim Bose campaigns for TMC candidate Mala Roy for Kolkata South at Alexandra Court, Chowringhee Road.

KMC ward no. 70 councillor Ashim Bose campaigns for TMC candidate Mala Roy for Kolkata South at Alexandra Court, Chowringhee Road. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta

Roy is also the sitting MP. In 2019, she defeated her closest rival, the BJP’s Chandra Kumar Bose, by more than 1.5 lakh votes.

Roy thinks being a councillor gives her an edge.

“I have been connecting with people at the local level for years. Even as an MP, I work for my constituency as a councillor. People from other wards come to me with civic issues, which I try to sort out,” said Roy.

“The councillors have been asked to give leads from their respective wards. They have been asked to highlight their achievements,” said Roy. She said even small issues like a person getting an Aadhaar card from a Duare Sarkar camp, are being highlighted by the councillors.

Her principal rivals in Kolkata South are Saira Shah Halim of the CPM and Debasree Chaudhuri of the BJP.

‘Playing catch-up’

Halim, who has been doing door-to-door visits herself, said Trinamool was sending the councillors after realising that she was reaching out to the people.

“I received a great response from the people, especially in the slums. Trinamool realised they have to catch up, which is why councillors are going on door-to-door visits now,” she said. “Besides, the councillors have not fared well. So they are trying to make up for their failures.”

Debasree Chaudhuri, the BJP’s Kolkata South candidate, said: “Mala Roy has failed as an MP. This is not a councillor election that civic issues will be discussed. This is being done to hide the failure of the MP. I have campaigned in all wards extensively and received very good response.”

In the neighbouring Jadavpur constituency, Trinamool’s Arijit Das Thakur, the ward No. 106 councillor, is among many going door-to-door, telling people why it was important for the party to win.

He is promising the benefits of a triple-engine system — where the councillor, MLA and MP are all from the same party.

“I used funds from (outgoing MP) Mimi Chakraborty’s quota to replace old street lights with new LED ones in large parts of my ward. There is also a senior citizen’s park coming up with the funds,” said Das Thakur.

In Jadavpur, Sayani’s main rivals are the BJP’s Anirban Ganguly and the CPM’s Srijan Bhattacharya.

The involvement of the councillors is not restricted to Calcutta alone.

The 41-ward Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation comes under the Barasat Lok Sabha constituency. There, too, the councillors have been told to enquire about local problems.

In Barasat, Trinamool’s Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar is pitted against the BJP’s Swapan Majumder.

Ghosh Dastidar, the sitting MP, has won the seat thrice. In 2019 she had a margin of 1,10,169 votes over her nearest rival, from the BJP.

“We have asked the councillors to enquire about any issues faced by the residents and assure them that they can be resolved simply by speaking to the local councillor. We feel that this will have a direct positive impact on the residents for our party,” said Bidhannagar mayor Krishna Chakra­borty.

The corporation is in charge of providing civic services to several places in the northeastern parts of the city, including Salt Lake, Baguiati, Kaikhali, Kestopur, Baguiati and parts of Dum Dum.

Wherever possible, the BJP is also sending councillors door-to-door. They are highlighting Narendra Modi’s schemes that affect the daily lives of people. Vijay Ojha, the BJP councillor of KMC ward No. 23, which is part of Kolkata North, said: “We are telling people how Modiji has worked for the marginalised. We are telling them that the Lok Sabha election is about electing the Union government.”

Calcutta votes on June 1

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