‘This will be the first time I will vote’ says BJP's Mrinal Kanti Debnath

The Left Front never let me vote : Mrinal Kanti Debnath

By Sudeshna Banerjee in Calcutta
  • Published 17.05.19, 4:03 PM
  • Updated 17.05.19, 4:03 PM
  • 3 mins read
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Mrinal Kanti Debnath campaigns in Salt Lake. (Sudeshna Banerjee)

Are you new to active politics?

An acquaintance used to take me to Keshav Bhavan, the RSS office in Calcutta, when I was a medical student. I passed MBBS in 1974 and practised medicine in Teghoria and Hatiara for some years. We are refugees.

When did you come from Bangladesh?

There was a riot in 1964. I was in Khulna that day, 11 miles from our village, to take admission in high school. The building I was in was set on fire. I took a smuggler’s boat headed for India as there was no way I could go back to my village. I worked as a cleaner in a bus stand. A local teacher admitted me to school. I topped the school final exam in the district in 1966. My family, which thought I was dead, read the news and tracked me.

From your affidavit it seems you spent many years abroad.

I got a job first in British Guyana in South America, then in a West Indian island called St. Vincent. I saved money and went to London. There, I got a scholarship in Vienna for a course in psychiatry. After the course, I returned to West Indies and worked from 1991 to 2008. Once my children got married, I decided to return to India.

Is it true you have voted in your life?

The Left Front never let me vote while I was here. I left the country at 28. On my return, I settled in the Andamans. It was too expensive to come to Calcutta just to vote. After the Left Front was defeated, I returned here in 2011. I have a house in Habra. But I mostly stay in this house (near Chinar Park, Rajarhat). I missed the previous elections being away at my children’s place in the US. So this will be the first time I will vote. My opponents are twisting this to say I do not believe in democracy!

How did you get in touch with BJP?

I was vice-president of BJP in Barasat for a while. But then I left and focused on my medical practice. This time, local BJP boys asked me to stand. I thought it would be tough to get a Lok Sabha ticket but I applied anyway. I really don’t know how — it’s my good fortune — that I got selected.

The Left Front candidate is saying you had sought a Forward Bloc ticket but was refused.

Not true. I did go to their Central Avenue office six months ago but it was because I am an admirer of Netaji Subhas Bose and run a trust in his name. There was no discussion of my election candidacy.

What issues are you highlighting?

There is no democracy here. Cadres are getting jobs. Industry has left. There is politics over social welfare. It’s true Calcutta has more flyovers and traffic jam is less. But the education system through which I came up is not there anymore. Why do children need private tutors?

An MP cannot do much about state education system.

True, but I can make people of my area conscious about these subjects. We can try to bring change when Assembly elections come.

So are you seeing this election as a build-up to the Assembly polls?

Yes, a prelude. If I am become MP, I will try to bring political change in the seven Assembly segments. My priority will be improvement in health. The health service in Barasat is rudimentary.

Your national leaders talk of either surgical strikes or of what the Gandhi family did in the past. The slogans in your rally are either religious or in Modi’s name. But you are talking only of local issues!

See, I trust Modi in matters of national security. He should be back in power. So I have no problems if they (supporters) chant his name. But individually, I have not been saying ‘Jai Shri Ram, Jai Shri Ram’ so far. But nor can I stop them. If I win, all will be equal in my eyes — even those who did not vote for me.

Finally, in the last Lok Sabha election, BJP came third but got a lead in Bidhannagar. What is your assessment this time?

It will all depend on how many people go to vote. People of Bidhannagar are reluctant to vote. I cannot drag them out. If the figure crosses 70 per cent, I expect a lead of 30,000. I will be lagging in two Assembly segments — Deganga and Madhyamgram, where Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar stays. I will get majority in my own place Habra, Ashoknagar, Bidhannagar and Rajarhat New Town, where I stay. Barasat too should give me a lead.