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Left minister faces former Naxalite in battle for ballots

Written by: Staff
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Kolkata, Apr 26 (UNI) With the smell of the turbulent' 70s still reeking from the soggy walls and by-lanes of Beliaghata, State IT Minister Manabendra Mukherjee finds an unlikely adversary for his seat in former Naxalite Ashim Chatterjee standing on a Trinamool Congress ticket.

If that has queered the pitch, he has to face a civic discontent in his backyard for lack of development that could see him fighting to retain the seat.

His challenger Ashim Chatterjee, a Naxalite-turned-Leftist- turned-Trinamool Congress leader, has a grassroots support base.

While Mr Mukherjee, a wholetime member of the CPI(M), was first elected to the West Bengal Legislative assembly in 1987 and since then have worked as a member of several Assembly Committee before taking over as the Environment and IT minister of the state, Mr Chatterjee began his political career as a Naxalite and right hand man of Charu Majumdar.

Having served-in prison for his naxalite links, he came out and joined the Left Front in a renewed battle against his tormentors. In 1991 he stood as a CPI(M) candidate from Rashbehari and then left the party to join Trinamool Congress, protesting against rigging of polls.

In contrast Mr Mukherjee has won five assembly elections.

Erudite, suave with several feathers in his cap, including visiting South Africa as an international observer in the first non-racial election in 1994, bringing Wipro, Cognizant, IBM and some of the biggest IT names in the state to having a literary penchant, Manab Mukherjee, however, has to pay his attention to more mundane things in the run up to the elections.

The Beliaghata canal needs to be revived, the area's drainage and sewerage needs an overhauling, the streets need a facelift and a few more schools, both primary and secondary, are the immediate necessity of the area.

Mukherjee hopes his campaign of cleaning the polluted canal and building schools in the constituency and reopening of closed factories will do the trick.

However, his opposition questions what he had done for the last five years as these are problems that had been plaguing the area for quite sometime now.

He had won by a paper-thin margin of 1395 votes from a seat that has 1,27,000 electorate.

Congress candidate Kanak Debnath, could, however, eat into the non-Left votes making life easier for the new generation Left leader.

The area with a sizable refugee belt has a loyal Left base, but the demography has certainly changed with a large number of people moving into the area from other parts of the state thus diluting the foundation to a great extent.

The polling tomorrow will not only be a test of strength and popularity for Manab Mukherjee against the guerrila man in trinamool ranks, but also whether IT can make up for the lack of development in locality.

UNI BA PC SC RK1428

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