New Delhi/Kolkata: From the protests in front of the admin block or at the Sabarmati Dhaba of the Jawaharlal Nehru University of New Delhi to the roadside tea shops of Jamuria Assembly constituency of Bengal, for 26-year-old CPM MLA candidate Aishe Ghosh nothing much has changed.
Ghosh is the first sitting JNU Student's Union president to fight an election. "Student politics has made the base of my political understanding. I do not see much of a difference between my politics at JNU and here. You can consider it as an extension of my politics. At JNU we fight for the rights of the students and here our fight is for the better future of my people," says Ghosh before addressing a street corner at the Jamuria constituency.
Jamuria of Bengal is located at the Paschim Bhardhaman district and it comes under the Asansol Parliamentary Constituency. It is a coal mine area with a significant presence of the coal mafia. However, this area has traditionally been a Left bastion. From 1977 to 2016 the CPM has never lost in this area. For the last two terms, Jahanara Khan of the CPM has won from this constituency.
"There are several issues in the area where I want to work on. First of all the access to drinking water and secondly the electricity. I believe that the overall development of Bengal is very important. Locally we have been with the people of Jamuria for years but under Mamata Banerjee's rule, there is a significant deterioration in the development work. The development of Jamuria as well as of Bengal can only happen by removing TMC rule," says Ghosh.
She says that the Left party has been very popular in the area because of the trade unions and the people have a lot of respect for the party. "Here our relationship with the people is not of any politician. The laal jhanda (red flag) has been with them for years. From the labour movements to their day-to-day needs the CPM and the trade unions have been in the forefront," says Ghosh.
After ruling Bengal for 35 years, the Left politics in Bengal suffered after Mamata Banerjee led the TMC government was formed. With time the vote share of the Left parties has also gone down significantly. Today in the light of the upcoming election Left parties have formed an alliance with the Congress Party and cleric turned politician Abbas Siddiqui-led Indian Secular Front. However, today the key fight of Bengal is considered as between the TMC and BJP.
"People from outside have different ideas about the BJP and TMC but if you work at the grassroots you will understand that there are not many differences between these two parties. Look at Nandigram where TMC supremo is the candidate against BJP's Subhendu Adhikari. But my question is who is Adhikari? He is not a BJP man he has just changed the party but actually, his base is of the TMC. This means that today the BJP has come in Bengal because of the TMC," says Ghosh.
Breaking the year-old tradition the Left parties have this time given tickets to many youth leaders. Leaders like Ghosh believe that it is a great responsibility for the youth leaders. "It is not that the Left parties have ignored the experienced politicians but there is a balance of both. It is a big responsibility. The youth of Bengal is devastated under the TMC rule. The people of Jamuria want that their children should get a job in the state itself but now they are forced to leave the state for jobs. We are focusing on creating employment, education to all and good health care," says Ghosh.
She believes that the political culture of Bengal has suffered a lot due to the TMC and BJP. The political poaching, corruption, unemployment and polarised politics have kept out the real issue of the people.
In the past, one year and more various leaders including MLAs, MPs and other leaders of the TMC have joined the BJP. But this list is not limited to the TMC because many CPM leaders have also joined the BJP. In the ongoing election, the BJP has also given tickets to most of these leaders who have come from the TMC which has reportedly created unease among the traditional BJP supporters as well.
"Bengal is known for its culture. The culture includes everything. Earlier there was a respectable political culture but today we have lost it. Every day TMC leaders are joining the BJP and vice-versa and then blaming their former party. It is an alarming tradition which the Bengal has never witnessed earlier. These people are not talking about the need for the industry in Jamuria, or why the factories have closed down in the area and across Bengal. We want to change such political culture," says Ghosh.
Ghosh is a resident of Durgapur and did her schooling from the same place as well. Thereafter she moved to Delhi and did her graduation in Political Science from the Daulat Ram College of Delhi. Then she joined JNU for her masters and now doing MPhil from the same university.
"Here people are very excited and the response is overwhelming. My experience of student politics is helping me to connect with the voters much better and I am confident about the victory. Our ideology is that we do not only fight for power we fight for change. We are with the people every day and we will be there in their struggle. This commitment of the Left parties is our strength and the people love us because of this," says Ghosh.
The 26-year old Ghosh this time is taking on Hareram Singh of TMC and Tapas Roy of the BJP.
On the grounds of Bengal, this election is being considered as between the BJP and the TMC whereas the Left-Congress alliance is fighting based on issues. This election for the Left is also an existential battle because in the last Lok Sabha elections their vote share has come down to a single digit. With election songs, youth candidates and new age campaign techniques candidates like Ghosh can write the new chapters of the Indian Left politics.
The author is a fellow at the Delhi Assembly Research Centre and an independent journalist who writes on issues of governance and politics. The author can be reached at @sayantan_gh