Ground Report: How the Khela has changed in North Bengal’s Natabari

When Bengal went to the polls the final time, the Natabari constituency noticed a struggle between the Trinamool Congress and Communist Party of India (Marxist) – CPI(M) or Left, baam to the native tongue. No one knew what was or who had been the BJP. The election symbols in ballot parlance right here had been Jora Phool and Kasta-Haturi. TMC’s twin flowers, and the Left’s hammer and sickle. TMC gained the final election un/truthful and sq.. Rabindranath Ghosh defeated Tamser Ali by 16,157 votes. Ghosh was handed the North Bengal Development division in the state authorities.

This yr, the khela has changed.

As you cross Chak Chaka, take the silk-smooth street in the direction of the Kaljani bridge and enter Bhuchungmari, your eyes meet many enormous banners asking the individuals of Natabari to vote for its ‘nijer chhele’. ‘Vote for [your] personal son Rabindranath Ghosh’, the TMC candidate and the sitting MLA from the constituency.

On the proper aspect of the street are quite a few saffron flags with the lotus on them. A smiling PM Modi is asking Natabari to ‘vote for improvement, vote for Mihir Goswami’, the BJP’s candidate. Till October final yr, Mihir Goswami and Rabindranath Ghosh had been colleagues. Both labored collectively in the TMC straight from their early years. This election, each Goswami and Ghosh are at just about the fag finish of their political careers. Both of them are on the improper aspect of 60, and each of them have this one final battle to struggle earlier than they declare khela shesh.

In 2016, Mihir Goswami gained the Cooch Behar Dakshin seat on behalf of the TMC. He joined the BJP in the finish. In 2021, the BJP despatched him to Natabari. Now, Natabari is gearing up for a struggle between TMC and ex-TMC hopefuls. TMC started properly and declared its candidates on March 5, the BJP took two extra weeks to announce its candidates for Natabari and Cooch Behar Dakshin, robbing the ticket-holders from these two constituencies of priceless marketing campaign days. The result’s evident on the floor. The Trinamool flags and posters are all evenly divided throughout the foremost street that cuts via the Gram Panchayats. The BJP ballot paraphernalia is concentrated in largely the populated areas. So you will notice their posters and flags at bus stops, the place one Gram Panchayat melds into one other, and on the outlets that dot two sides of the street.

When we attain Natabari, the climate app on my cellphone says 37 levels. Cooch Behar hardly sees this sort of warmth in April. But then, local weather change is actual, and mercury has been steadily reflecting that. The day the Prime Minister arrived in Cooch Behar, it was 40 levels. Visuals of the PM wiping the sweat off his face and brow made it to all channels native and nationwide – for the mere indisputable fact that the venue of his deal with, Rash Mela Ground, was packed to the brim. Some individuals even bought themselves seats atop branches in close by timber to catch a glimpse of the nation’s head speaking to the individuals of Cooch Behar.

In this humid warmth, we come throughout Ganesh Das and Jodu Das. They are each dressed in a gamchha. You can depend the ribs on their naked torsos: starvation trumps eight-pack diets right here. They are sitting below a tree to catch a breath between farmwork and residential.

Jodu Das (L) and Ganesh Das

Ganesh Das and Jodu Das are wheat and jute farmers. They have about two bighas of land – the proverbial do-bigha zameen – and inform us their downside is irrigation or the lack of it. They rely on rains and local weather change is making the cycle unpredictable.

“Yes, the TMC has accomplished lots for us. If the authorities has accomplished one thing for us, we’re glad about it. If they’ll remedy this water downside, it is going to be useful for us,” says Jodu Das. We ask them about the scanty presence of the BJP in the area. Have they campaigned right here? Ganesh Das replies, “BJP, TMC, Left have all campaigned. There are extra TMC flags, however all events have been right here.”

Three kilometres down the road, saffron has swallowed the blue-and-white flags. We meet Sumitra Das at the point where Gram Panchayat 1 ends. The mood here, like the party flags, has changed. Das says, “The TMC authorities has accomplished nothing for us. My vote is for change. We are hopeful of a greater future.”

At the end of this road, the government signboard thanks us for visiting Natabari Gram Panchayat 1. A BJP flag is firmly tucked in by its side. Above it is a banner saying Vote for BJP’s Mihir Goswami. On the other side of the road, TMC’s poster says Natabari nijer chhele Rabindranath Ghosh ke chay. Natabari wants its own son.

We have been on the road the entire day and stop for a cup of cha at a hole in the wall. The wall outside has BJP exhorting people to walk to Nabanna and oust the ruling TMC government. An amused Mamata Banerjee looks out of a poster on the same wall, saying ‘Bangla Nijer Meyeke Chai’. (Bengal wants its own daughter)

The Left, meanwhile, hasn’t yet deserted the battleground. Student leader Akik Hasan is contesting the elections from CPI(M), backed by the United Front – the Sangjukta Morcha. Our cha-shingara has arrived. A plate of ‘mixture’ — bhujia and sweet boondi, a delicacy here — is placed before us. The first sip of this hard-sweet tea helps wash much of the day’s tiredness away. As we bite into the shingara, the loudspeakers ferry a voice from the other end of the bazaar. A Left leader is speaking at Natabari. He has a solid story to tell his audience: the story of Saumitra Khan and Sujata Mondal. Saumitra is the BJP MP from Bishnupur. His wife Sujata Mondal Khan switched over to the TMC just last December and political journalists in Bengal got the story of the year: the BJP MP, whose wife is now in TMC.

So the Khans are the perfect dart-board for the Left this election. You can kill the BJP bird and the TMC bird with the same dart. “The 48-inch TV in the Khan family is now break up down the center. TMC will get 24 inches and BJP will get the different 24 in the Khan drawing-room,” booms out of the loudspeakers in Natabari, “When Narendra Modi introduced a lockdown and migrant employees returned to Cooch Behar, we stood by them. Sarkar-e nei, darkar-e-achhi. We’re not the authorities, we’re by the individuals in instances of want. So the individuals of Natabari have now determined Darkar-e Pashe Pai, Sarkar-e Chai. We get you beside us in instances of want; we would like your authorities.”

A bicycle crosses us, the rider busy on the phone. We ask him the big question: which ‘sarkar’ do they want on May 2? Who will Natabari vote for on April 10? “Dekhi – let’s have a look at,” is the one-word reply.

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