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National - Elections 2004 Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Rabin Deb, CPI (M) candidate, Kolkata South Lok Sabha seat


Rabin Deb, Chief Whip of the Left Front in the West Bengal Assembly and CPI (M) MLA, claims he is not overawed by the stature of Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress, his opponent for the Kolkata South Lok Sabha seat in the coming polls. "Yes, the party has chosen me to take on someone many consider a heavyweight ... In comparison I may be a lightweight. But the scales, this time, are heavily tilted towards lightweights like me." Reason: "We are more in number, a fact the harsh reality behind the feel-good advertisements ensures."

History might be on the side of Ms. Banerjee, who has been representing the seat since 1991, but it has not been unkind to Mr. Deb either. "She [Ms. Banerjee] has always had some wave or the other to ride ever since she has been contesting from this seat ... But, I too have been elected thrice by the people of the Ballygunge Assembly segment which is part of the Kolkata South Lok Sabha constituency, says Mr. Deb. "I also am well aware of the hurly-burly of electioneering."

He began campaigning on February 6, "immediately after my candidature was announced. And that seems to have taken a toll of his voice. Today it is hoarse, occasionally fading into a barely audible whisper, till he clears his throat. "Day-after-day of meetings [even on Holi] and extensive electioneering," Mr. Deb explains, are the reasons. For those not within earshot when he is on his trails there is a specially printed postcard with the hammer-and-sickle symbol serving as a stamp mark. "More than two-and-a-half lakh cards have been printed — in Bengali, English, Hindi and Urdu."

"Respected Sir/Madam," the card in English begins. "... Even when the slogan of Ulte Dao, Palte Dao [Ms. Banerjee's call for upsetting and changing things two elections ago] created havoc in South Kolkata, the people of Ballygunge stood by me...," it says. This time around, Mr. Deb's sights are trained [on goals] beyond the State Assembly.

"... I have seen that the major roads of development process end in Delhi. If the policy of governing the country cannot be changed our dreams will not be transformed into reality," says Mr. Deb's postcard. "I want to fight for Kolkata, for its people in Parliament. For the last five years there was no one to speak for South Kolkata in Parliament. The Parliamentarians of Kolkata have been busy with themselves, they were practically busy with internal feuds regarding ministry..." There is little doubt about those being alluded at.

Mr. Deb has found a way to cope with the high-profile nature of his two main opponents — Ms. Banerjee and former model, Nafisa Ali of the Congress. "... I neither carry any adjective before my name nor do I have a foreign degree. I am a common political worker with a very humble background ... I am neither a poet nor a painter [referring to Ms. Banerjee's attempts at verse and paintings]." He also claims he is not a "post hungry candidate." Rather, "I am ready to leave the post of the Chief Whip of the West Bengal Assembly so that I can represent the people of Kolkata South constituency."

Marcus Dam

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