Bengal’s 91-year-old ‘Chacha ji’ fights another election

Kolkata : The Congress’ Gyan Singh Sohanpal is the oldest candidate in the West Bengal assembly polls, seeking his 11th term as a legislator at the ripe age of 91.

Fondly called “Chacha ji” (uncle) by one and all, Sohanpal is contesting from Kharagpur Sadar constituency in West Midnapore district, which has been sending him to the assembly since 1982.

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He served as a West Bengal minister and briefly as the assembly speaker in the past.

Sohanpal’s family belonged to Punjab but migrated to Bengal in early 1900s. He joined the Congress party during the Quit India movement for the overthrow of British rule in the country.

He won his first election in 1969 in independent India.

Since then, Sohanpal has kept the Congress flag high in all electoral contests, except in 1977 when the Left Front swept to power in the state.

This time he is pitted against BJP state president Dilip Ghosh and the ruling Trinamool Congress’ Ramaprasad Tiwari, but has the backing of the Left Front which has an electoral understanding with the Congress in West Bengal.

The tie-up is a democratic necessity, says Sohanpal, once a fierce opponent of the Marxists.

“Politics is about people and this tie-up is their demand and need. It is a necessity — to oust the Trinamool,” he says.

Sohanpal is proud of his amazing capacity for fighting elections and is hopeful of yet another win, hopefully the 11th.

“I have full faith in the people of Kharagpur; they will never let down Congress,” he says.

To those who say he is no match to his rivals’ physically exhausting campaigning in hot sun, Sohanpal retorts: “I am proud to be 91 years old and far more active than they are.”

But Dilip Ghosh insists, the youth should now take over.

“It’s not the age for him to work. The people of Kharagpur have already declared it’s time for him to rest. I too want him to rest and bless me and let the youth lead the country,” said Ghosh during one of his road shows in the constituency.

A high-decibel address by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a massive road show by Trinamool supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee have raised the temperatures in the Kharagpur Sadar constituency, which votes on Monday.