National

Clash of FMs: who will bag Khardah?

Jayanta Mallick Kolkata | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on April 19, 2016

Destination Khardah TMC candidate Amit Mitra

Asim Dasgupta, the CPI(M) candidate ASHOKE CHAKRABARTY

The incumbent Amit Mitra is pitted against predecessor Asim Dasgupta





In 2011, Khardah, in the suburbs of Kolkata, was witness to a contest between Duke University alumnus and former FICCI boss Amit Mitra and the then State Finance Minister and MIT alumnus Asim Dasgupta.

Mitra won the fight and succeeded Dasgupta as Finance Minister in the Mamata Banerjee government.

The Mitra vs Dasgupta battle is set for a rerun this year, when Khardah goes to the polls on April 25.

Mitra won in 2011 with a promise to reorganise State finances.

“The State was then in debt of around ₹2 lakh crore. However, the Trinamool government has added about ₹1 lakh crore in just five years,” said Dasgupta.

Mitra rebuts that the past debt was primarily responsible for the annual outgo on interest and principal of ₹28,000 crore. His government, however, recorded revenue growth of 100 per cent in the past five years to make provisions for development projects, he pointed out.

Today, he is claiming development and improvement in civic amenities as his poll plank.

Development work

Dipu, a barber and ardent supporter of TMC, refers to the widespread development work in the past five years as the high points of Mitra’s tenure. Better provision of drinking water, paved roads, streetlights, improved drainage systems and cycles for schoolchildren are some of the highlights.

Mitra told BusinessLine: “Local councillors and panchayat leaders have worked wonders here.” Development work, he assures his voters, will continue if the TMC comes back to power.

Pointing out to a heap of stone chips, he said: “It’s proof that we are increasingly taking up road projects. In the rural blocks in the constituency, such as Bandipur, Bilkanda or Patulia, we are expediting water supply projects.”

Hard battle

But, victory may not be as easy this time.

The CPI(M), now contesting in coalition with the Congress, expects to win back a substantial part of its support base in semi-urban and rural pockets.

The Left party had lost an estimated 35,000 voters to the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Gaining this back, coupled with the support of the Congress, may swing the polls in its favour.

Locals feel much of the anti-Left sentiment in the last two elections (Assembly and Lok Sabha) has subsided, especially with the failure of the BJP to rise in Bengal as a credible alternative.

Realty pangs

Once dotted with jute mills and other industries, Khardah turned into a graveyard of industries many years ago. Kishore, a CPI(M) party worker, is quick to point out that none of the closed units re-opened during Mitra’s tenure.

On the contrary, the industrial land is now used for real estate activities.

“None of the closed units have reopened. Real estate activity has thrived on land that belonged to these units. Farmland and water bodies are not being spared by the land sharks, operating hand-in-glove with ruling party satraps,” he complained.

Dasgupta feels there is a groundswell against the TMC’s misrule. “Ordinary people are threatened by the ways of the party in power,” he added.

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Published on April 19, 2016
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