Sports star, matinee idol and barrister battle in Krishnanagar

May 6th, 2009 - 9:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Krishnanagar, May 6 (IANS) Rarely does one find a sports star crossing swords with a matinee idol in Indian elections. But that is the case in West Bengal’s Krishnanagar Lok Sabha constituency where Asian Games double gold winning athlete Jyotirmoyee Sikdar is up against leading Bengali film actor Tapas Pal.
Sitting CPI-M MP Sikdar is locked in a tough fight with Trinamool candidate Pal, who has emerged as a formidable rival following the seat adjustment between his party and the Congress for the Lok Sabha elections.

Sikdar, who won the women’s 800 m and 1500 m gold medals in the 1998 Busan Asian Games, is keeping a low profile with the opposition and the media criticising her for non-performance and the alleged unearthing of a sex racket in her husband’s hotel.

Pal, now in his second straight stint as a legislator from Alipore seat in South Kolkata, is hoping to cash in on his leader Mamata Banerjee’s image and “the lack of development” in the constituency in the border district of Nadia.

“I am didi’s (Mamata Banerjee) pigeon. She has sent me to fight the electoral battle here. Voting for me is voting for her,” said Pal, who drew large crowds since his arrival in the constituency on being nominated.

Pal, the hero of popular Bengali movies like “Dadar Kirti” and “Saheb”, says: “People here have accepted me very well. They want development. Even basic amenities are absent here. There is no water, electricity in a lot of areas.”

However, he refused to make any personal attack against his rival. “She was a good athlete. And it is for the people to judge how she has performed,” he said.

Sikdar, a Padma Shri and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardee, had defeated then union minister Satyabrata Mukherjee of the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) to taste success on her maiden election contest in 2004.

Mukherjee, now the state BJP president and a leading barrister, is a candidate this time too and enjoys lot of goodwill in Krishnanagar for being a local man. “He may be a big man in Kolkata and the high court, but to us he is the gharer chele (son of the soil). There are countless number of needy people he has helped,” said Samir Biswas, a farmer of Nakashipara.

In 1999, with support from Trinamool, Mukherjee won from Krishnanagar bagging 43.82 percent votes. Five years later his vote percentage dropped to 40.54, and he lost by a narrow margin of 20,000 to Sikdar. Fighting alone, the Congress had collected over 95,000 votes in 2004.

A matter of concern for the state’s ruling Left Front backed CPI-M nominee Sikdar is the fact that even in 2004, the vote of the combined opposition vote was 75,000 more than what Sikdar got.

The CPI-M is hoping that Mukherjee will be able to cash in on his personal charisma and split the opposition votes.

Mukherjee loyalists, on the other hand, regard him as a serious challenger. “Julubabu (Mukherjee’s nickname) has a good chance to win,” said a local BJP worker.

Krishnanagar goes to the polls May 7.

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