Mamata woos voters through Rabindra sangeet


Kolkata: Sloganeering — the pet campaign tool of Indian politicians — is minimal and soothing Rabindra sangeet plays in the background. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is walking the lanes and by-lanes of south Kolkata’s Bhowanipore constituency to seek votes for her maiden entry into the state assembly.

Support TwoCircles

The 56-year-old Trinamool Congress chief, sporting her trademark white cotton saree and rubber slippers, and palms joined in a traditional “namashkar”, is literally the girl next door for the voters in this area which houses her spartan residence in a dingy lane of Kalighat.

It is also a part of the Kolkata South Lok Sabha constituency which has been electing her without a break since 1991.

And Banerjee’s familiarity with the surroundings is all too evident in her relaxed gait as she effortlessly makes her way through the narrow, meandering lanes, waving to the people, accepting flowers from children, and repeatedly asking her security personnel not to come between her and the masses.

Suddenly she spots some youngsters precariously perched atop a wall in an overcrowded verandah. “Eki korcho? Pore jabe je! Neme esho, neme esho (What are you doing? You will fall. Come down, come),” she scolds like a “didi” (elder sister, as she is affectionately addressed).

The atmosphere turns festive with women blowing conches and showering petals, welcoming her.

“What is the need for all these? I am just one of you. Why do you have to formally welcome somebody form your locality?” she smiles.

An elderly woman complains to her about the high prices of essentials. “Didi, please look into this,” she pleads.

“But haven’t vegetables already become cheaper?” Banerjee asks. The woman nods and Didi moves on.

Banerjee has issued a diktat to her party leaders not to use graffiti or create noise pollution while campaigning in the constituency. Instead, the lilting notes of Rabindra sangeet waft across the streets to make people aware of her campaign for the Sep 25 polls.

In a written appeal to the voters, Banerjee has twice apologised for the by-polls which became necessary after state Public Works Department Minister Subra Buxi resigned his seat to make way for her.

Banerjee had not contested the assembly elections earlier this year as she wanted to devote herself full time to drumming up support for her party.

“I apologise for disturbing you only three months after taking over the reins of the new government…But I have to get elected within six months. So I am indeed sorry for urging you to cast your vote once again within a short time,” her appeal read.

The opposition Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has fielded a political greenhorn, Nandini Mukherjee, a computer science professor. She too has started knocking at the doors of voters.

The area is considered Banerjee’s pocket borough. She took a massive 40,000 lead from the assembly segment in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. Buxi had won by a whopping 49,963 margin over CPI-M candidate Narayan Jain. Ironically, Jain has decided to campaign for the chief minister, leaving the CPI-M red-faced.