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|September 30, 1999||
Indrajit Gupta may finally meet his electoral nemesis
In spite of having the best track record, of winning ten times in a row since 1960, veteran CPI leader and former Union home minister Indrajit Gupta is finding it difficult to retain the traditional Leftist garrison of Midnapore in the evening of his political career.
According to political observers, Gupta is under considerable flak for his alleged failure to undertake any developmental work.
Also unlike the last time, the Bharatiya Janata Party and Trinamul Congress are fighting the election together and could take away a sizeable chunk of Gupta's votes.
Gupta, who is blamed for not undertaking any developmental work in the constituency, by the Opposition as well as by a section of his party supporters, is however, trying to put up a brave face to counter the odds.
''It is totally unjustified to blame me for not looking after my constituency and I do not feel that my voters would turn against me even for what I have done for them,'' said an exhausted Gupta who is of late spending 12 to 14 hours a day campaigning and visiting the remotest corners of his semi-urban constituency in a desperate bid to woo the voters.
On the contrary, riding on an apparent sympathy wave, BJP nominee Monoranjan Dutta is leaving no stone unturned to capitalise on it. Moreover, the formal pre-poll understanding between the BJP and the Trinamul Congress to fight jointly seems to have been paying rich dividend.
Such an understanding has assumed more significance this time. Dutta's defeat last year to Gupta by nearly 300,000 votes, was, according to poll observers, due to lack of understanding between the BJP and TC and their inter-party squabbling. The apparent non-existence of the original Congress as a force to reckon with following large-scale exodus of party workers to the TC has also been on added advantage to Dutta.
The septuagenarian Gupta, contesting for the 12th time, has lost only once in his five-decade-long political career when the then Bharatiya Lok Dal candidate Ashok Krishna Dutta defeated him from the Dumdum Lok Sabha constituency by nearly 100,000 votes way back in 1977. But after that, Gupta never looked back and riding on the crest of his ever-increasing popularity and personal charisma, returned to the Lok Sabha first from Basirhat in 1980 and 1981 and then from Midnapore six times in a row.
This time, Gupta, though initially did not want to contest because of election fatigue, is locked in a five-cornered contest against Dutta of the BJP, Samir Roy of the Congress and two Independents, Akshay Kumar Khan and Mritunjoy Chakraborty. Last year, Gupta defeated Dutta by more than 275,000 votes in a four-cornered contest.
As a majority of the more than 1.9 million voters in this constituency are from the farming community, the alleged lack of government initiative to introduce any special agricultural subsidy for them and failure to prevent recurrence of floods every year in the district has become the two major poll planks this time. The non-fulfilment of the pre-election promises by Gupta since 1996 for establishing the double line railway track between Midnapore and Kharagpur town has also turned a large number of floating urban voters against the veteran Communist.
Meanwhile, a number of poll-related clashes at the panchayat level in the district earlier this month had forced the state administration to undertake elaborate security measures to ensure free and fair polls on October 3. Sufficient paramilitary and other security forces have been deployed in a few hundred of the 1,748 booths declared sensitive.
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