Mohan Bagan veteran sweats it out in Bengal

Ace football player and Mohan Bagan veteran Prasun Banerjee has struck hard on the football field all his life. This time around as the sitting MP and Trinamool Congress candidate from Howrah, he hopes to achieve the same level of skill with which he will defeat his rivals.

The ground reality, however, reveals that the BJP holds a significant command over much of public opinion.

 With the district’s demography showing a large population of Bengalis living in the township for centuries, there is a mixed bag of non-Bengali population, largely dominated by the Marwari trading community and a strong Bihari population, most of whose forefathers came to work in the many jute mills and other factories of the district and settled down in nearby localities.

Local Trinamool leaders agree that given the constituency’s demography, a major percentage of the non-Bengali population is likely to vote for Narendra Modi’s party. Even CPI state secretary Manju Kumar Majumdar, a voter of Serampore constituency but resident of Bally in Howrah constituency, believes BJP’s vote share will go up.

While a section within the state BJP feel a Hindi-speaking candidate would have helped their cause even more but they are standing behind George Baker, the Anglo-Indian in his late 60s, who has been a popular actor in Bengali films for decades.  Probably echoing the apprehensions of Trinamool leaders, Santosh Jain of Liluah said, “Ab ki baar Modi sarkar.”

The seller of dry fruit and assorted luxury items like cookies, imported chocolates and lozenges was echoing what his neighbour Premlal Singh, owner of a hardware store said. “One Mamata (Jaiswal) has gone and another Mamata (Banerjee) has come but nothing has changed. All they have are just words and corruption. It’s better to give a chance to someone new,” he said.

The hardware store owner was referring to Jaiswal, the Left Mayor of Howrah who lost to Banerjee’s Trinamool last year.

At Howrah, this agent of change many are hoping for is the somewhat aged Baker, who has stayed away from the silver screen for sometime but was once a regular feature in Bengali films and TV serials. The Anglo-Indian actor from Kolkata is putting in his best and braved the extreme heat and humidity to campaign even on Easter Sunday.

“The ruling party is afraid. I’m a new entrant to politics yet when they smeared black paint on Modi’s posters they did that even to my face on the posters. They must be feeling somewhat insecure,” he said.

While George believes he knew this would be part of the game, on the other end is Trinamool Congress candidate Prasun Banerjee, an Arjuna Award recipient for his contribution to football and sitting MP of Howrah, who won the seat in a by-election around 11 months ago.

With no BJP during the by-poll, is it going to be a tough fight this time? Banerjee laughed it off. “They may win in Delhi and Mumbai but here in Howrah they will lose by 6-0,” one of India’s past football stars, told Deccan Herald.

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