‘Number Three’ Madan Mitra hopes to be No. 1

Former Bengal transport minister's final lease of life as Trinamul’s candidate for the Bhatpara Assembly bypoll

By Snehamoy Chakraborty in Bhatpara
  • Published 18.05.19, 2:36 AM
  • Updated 18.05.19, 2:36 AM
  • 3 mins read
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Mitra campaigns in Bhatpara. Picture by Snehamoy Chakraborty

Madan Mitra is due for a reckoning.

Three years after his release from prison as an accused in the Saradha scam, the former Bengal transport minister is being given a final lease of life in the form of his nomination as Trinamul’s candidate for the Bhatpara Assembly bypoll on Sunday.

At a rally on Friday afternoon, Mitra was all nerves. Flagging off his road show from Bhatpara’s Circus More around 2.30pm, Mitra spotted a group of Trinamul supporters showing victory signs atop a pickup van.

Mitra clambered out of his vehicle. “How many times have I asked you not to show two fingers (victory sign)?” he yelled at the group and gesticulated.

“You people are showing your two fingers despite knowing that my serial number is three on the EVM. Everybody, show three fingers,” Mitra said, making a three-finger sign.

“Sabai miley duto angul dekhachhe.. bhul bujhe lokey dui number ta tipey debe…. (All people are showing two fingers… people will misunderstand and press the number 2 button (on the EVM),” Mitra was heard whispering to himself as he stepped back into his car.

Moving along, Mitra declared that actress Ameesha Patel had come to the road show. “She will campaign singing Kaho na pyar hai…..,” Mitra declared.

This correspondent, who was in the vehicle, overheard snippets of Mitra’s conversation with the actress. “Tin ungliyan dikhaiye madam (show three fingers, madam),” Mitra chuckled to a grinning Ameesha.

This is not Mitra’s first attempt at trying to garner star power. He had also brought along Bollywood actress Bhagyashree, actor Shakti Kapoor and Bhojpuri artist Rani Chatterjee to his constituency — which has a significant Hindi-speaking population — in separate rallies last month.

A former transport minister in Mamata Banerjee’s cabinet, the last five years have been difficult for Mitra. In December 2014, he was arrested for his alleged involvement in the Saradha scam. While spending his 21-month jail term, he contested the 2016 Assembly polls, which he lost to CPM’s Manas Mukherjee in Kamarhati.

Sunday’s byelection will be Mitra’s fight to the finish to re-enter mainstream politics. “It is really a tough fight for Madan Mitra. If he wins, there is a possibility of he getting back into prominence… On his Twitter handle, he used to write ‘former minister’ and now says that this is the golden chance for him to return to his former glory,” a Trinamul leader said.

Another worry for Mitra is that the ‘Number 2 candidate’ is none other than the BJP’s Pawan Kumar Singh — the son of former Trinamul MLA Arjun Singh — who, if anybody, is Mitra’s fiercest competition for the seat.

The bypoll was necessitated after Arjun defected to the BJP in March. Asked by this newspaper, Arjun said: “Trinamul will not be able to fool the people again, not even with superstars. Everyone is pro-BJP now.”

Popular sentiment on the ground seemed unpredictable.

“Madanda brought a festive mood to Bhatpara. We are enjoying the election mood as several celebrities are coming. Over 1.5 lakh visiting cards with phone numbers of Madan Mitra and over a lakh calendars with photographs of Madanda and our Didi (chief Minister Mamata Banerjee) have been distributed. All workers are offered lunch. The bypoll has more colourful than Lok Sabha polls,” a senior Trinamul leader in Bhatpara said.

On Friday, Mitra’s people were found distributing his visiting cards and asking voters to call “Madanda” if they need anything. It has also become routine for Mitra to go on Facebook live for his campaign and to post memes criticising Arjun and the BJP.

Mitra chooses his attire with care, being a believer in the positive effects of colour. On Friday, he arrived at Premnath Bhavan, a guesthouse of the Bhatpara municipality in a yellow Punjabi, a red scarf, and ribbon tied on his right arm.

“Yellow is my lucky colour as it is colour of Brahaspati. Look at this scarf….this one I brought from Puri after offering puja to Lord Jagannath. This ribbon is a blessing of Sherawali Maa and I am carrying Hanuman Chalisa in my pocket,” Mitra said.

Over to divine intervention.