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Kolkata poll diary: Voters brave sweltering heat

Last updated on: April 27, 2011 15:14 IST

Kolkata poll diary: Voters brave sweltering heat

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Indrani Roy Mitra in Kolkata

After taking a stroll in the bylanes of South Kolkata, Indrani Roy Mitra moves on to North Kolkata in the sweltering heat as the day progresses, and talks to voters and supporters alike during the third phase polling of the West Bengal assembly elections

The entire city of Kolkata wore a holiday look. Most of the shops and other establishments remained closed on Wednesday as polling took place in the city. Vast stretches of road in central and North Kolkata were deserted and even Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, one of the busiest ways surrounding the city, looked as if a bandh was on.

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Image: A voter after coming out of the polling booth in Belghoria
Photographs: Dipak Chakraborty
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'We are going to get a woman chief minister'

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After covering a few poll booths in south Kolkata, I moved to central and northern parts of the city. In one particular booth at Belghoria in north Kolkata, the queue was pretty long. A middle-aged woman was complaining for having to stand too long.

"They used to have a separate line for women before. Now, we don't enjoy such advantage", she cribbed. Hearing this, a young man, just behind her, could not help commenting, "Didi, this is an age of equality, no preference for women."

"Why not, we are going to get a woman chief minister (she meant Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee) for the first time in Bengal's history," the woman retorted.

"The polling is not yet over, and you already know the result," teased the man only to earn a cruel glare from his fellow citizen.

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Image: Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee
Photographs: Reuters
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Armed to take on the heat

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The day was slowly rolling into noon and enthusiastic voters were thronging the booths, most carrying umbrellas and water bottles. It was quite hot and sultry and no one knew how long the voting would take.

The Central Reserve Police Force men suffered the most -- having to stand in the sun for hours -- and keeping a strict vigil. They were guarding various checkposts at important city junctions to prevent any untoward incident.

One of Kolkata Police men was seeing having an ice cream to beat the heat. As my photographer aimed his lens at him, he forbade him with a smile. "Ice cream haate chhobi tulle amar chakrita jaabe dada (a photograph with me having ice cream will make me lose my job, dada)."

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Image: A man walks past Communist Party of India-Marxist party symbol
Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters
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'We will win, that's for sure'

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A few Trinamool Congress supporters (they were manning the TMC manch) were chatting away, albeit at a safe distance from the booth. I could not help eavesdropping.

"We will win, that's for sure. But the question is: how many seats we will get," said a middle-aged man.

"All depends on the total percentage of polling," added his friend, a man in his mid-forties. "The higher the volume of polling, the greater will be our number of seats," the man said.

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Image: Officials at a polling booth in Kolkata
Photographs: Dipak Chakraborty
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'Let's see what people want'

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An election is indeed a great generator of talks.

About 100 metres from the TMC manch, the Left Front loyalists were overheard calculating how many seats they needed to win in North Kolkata to remain in power.

"People are too level-headed to be fooled by TMC gimmicks. The Lok Sabha and municipal elections are things of the past," said a young man. His friends at the manch nodded in agreement.

"Our party made some mistakes but then we did rectify them, isn't it?" he said. To this, the sole woman of the group commented, "Wish things moved a little faster. Let's see what people want."

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Image: An armed jawan keeps an eye on the crowds
Photographs: Dipak Chakraborty
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'May the best party win'

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A grocery store in the vicinity, the only shop that was open, was doubling up as a cigarette and tea stall. The owner was all smiles. "My sales till now have been more than what I sell in an entire week," he told rediff.com.

A group of first-time voters were approaching a booth in North Kolkata with great fervour. As I approached them, the girls, four of them, proudly flaunted their voter identity cards. "We are too excited. It's a wonderful feeling", they said, almost in unison.

When asked about their political expectations, "May the best party win," is all that they said.

I could not but agree with them.

 


Image: First-time voters proudly flaunt their voter idendity cards
Photographs: Dipak Chakraborty
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