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Daddy's beta versus veteran

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NISHA LAHIRI   |   Calcutta   |   Published 23.04.06, 12:00 AM

Calcutta, April 23: Jorasanko is home to Thakurbari, the symbol of all that is Bengali.

So, it is perhaps ironic that the two principal candidates from this constituency are non-Bengalis.

This similarity apart ? and the fact that both Shyam Sundar Gupta and Dinesh Bajaj speak fluent Bengali ? they have little in common.

“I’m the youngest candidate in Calcutta,” 36-year-old Dinesh proudly proclaims.

Although a first-timer, the Trinamul nominee is the son of sitting MLA and veteran politician Satyanarayan Bajaj, which gives him enough clout in the kitty.

“Public meetings, festivals, events, you name it and I’ve have been there with my father. We serve the people with a smile,” says he, with a smile.

Despite last time’s setback ? losing to Bajaj (Sr) by a few hundred votes ? the smile does not seem to be leaving Gupta’s face either. “This time, I will win by 10,000,” claims the Forward Bloc candidate. “The Left has bounced back? In the last election, people in the area were very anti-Left. This time, it’s a turnaround,” he beams.

The resurgence of the Left in urban areas has renewed his confidence, enough to disregard most of the allegations flung at him by the Bajajs.

“Satyanarayan Bajaj had switched from the Left to Trinamul at the last minute,” recounts Gupta, in his sixties. The betrayal of 2001 lends an edge to this year’s rivalry.

A spot-the-differences list pitting the Bajaj beta against Gupta is as long as the list of allegations levelled by both sides.

Being a Class X dropout is no deterrent for Dinesh, chief editor of the TV channel Ek-Nazar and newspaper Sandhya Nazar. He is as proud of his certificate in English from a British Council course as he is of his bond with Muslim voters.

“Education isn’t everything, although my opponent would like to believe that it is. He thinks I claim to be a chartered accountant. Someone must have spread the false information. My affidavit tells the truth, unlike his.”

Gupta is a former mayor and MP and a high court lawyer. “I have a past. He has no past. The youth vote may go in his favour, but to look good and speak well is not everything,” he argues.

Both the weather-beaten veteran and the young man are armed with files that apparently contain documents to nail the other.

Dinesh describes Gupta as a “criminal”, reeling off a list of allegations, from ties with illegal liquor shops to lying. “He has put false information in his affidavits. I have appealed to the Election Commission.” Gupta points a finger at the father, highlighting raids on beauty parlours and family feuds. Bajaj (Sr) is also accused of only picking clubs for financial help. “Satyanarayan Bajaj is a liability for his son.”

But both are playing it far safer when it comes to making poll promises. They want to improve the infrastructure, civic amenities and lives of the people, but they aren’t giving any guarantees.

Once elected ? Dinesh is sure to win, the fight, he insists, is to increase the margin to four figures ? Dinesh’s priority will be education, particularly making those below the poverty line computer literate. Self-help co-operatives for women, too, are on the wish list. “I don’t make promises I can’t keep,” he says, for once without a smile.

Gupta wants to improve the water supply system and reduce waterlogging. “I want to solve the people’s problems. But I am not going to promise anything before the elections and then go back on my word.”

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