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Lok Sabha Elections 2024 | Two stars and a master plan: Cheers for stardom drowns scepticism in Ghatal

Yet the Ghatal Master Plan remains unimplemented, and Dev’s failure to keep his promise has now turned into a political weapon that his rival and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s candidate, Hiranmoy Chattopadhyay, who, himself, is also a film star, has been using against him to the hilt in the campaign.
nirban Bhaumik
Last Updated : 22 May 2024, 05:57 IST
Last Updated : 22 May 2024, 05:57 IST

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Ghatal (West Bengal): “The Centre is not helping, but Didi has promised that the State Government itself will implement the Ghatal Master Plan now,” Deepak Adhikari, whom most in West Bengal knows as Dev, says, as the crowd at Daspur in Paschim Medinipur district of the state keeps cheering for him incessantly. “We deliver what we commit. The survey for implementation of the master plan has already been started. The project will be completed in 3-4 years”, Didi – the state’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee – too endorses the promise made by the Trinamool Congress’s candidate for the Ghatal Lok Sabha constituency.

If his acting skill has made Dev, a superstar and the heartthrob of West Bengal, the Ghatal Master Plan – or, to be precise, just the promise of it – has been the key to his success in politics. It won him the mandate to represent Ghatal in the Lok Sabha, not once, but twice, in 2014 and 2019. His celebrityhood rarely allows him to attend the Lok Sabha sessions, but, whenever he does, the 41-year-old does speak about the master plan.

Yet the Ghatal Master Plan remains unimplemented, and Dev’s failure to keep his promise has now turned into a political weapon that his rival and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s candidate, Hiranmoy Chattopadhyay, who, himself, is also a film star, has been using against him to the hilt in the campaign. “He (Dev) has been an MP for 10 years but has done nothing for the constituency. The Ghatal Master Plan is now a ‘Modi Ki Guarantee’ and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government will surely implement it,” Chattopadhyay, better known as Hiraan, says, as he joins the state BJP heavyweight, Suvendu Adhikari, in a late-evening padayatra in Panshkura Bazar. “We are also promising a rail link between Ghatal and Panshkura”.

The Ghatal Master Plan is a mega project envisaged back in 1959 to save the low-lying areas in and around Ghatal, located at the base of the Chota Nagpur Plateau, from the annual flood. The overflowing waters of the rainfed rivers like Shilabati, Damodar, Rupnarayan, and Dwarakeshwar, originating in the plateau, inundate a large number of villages every monsoon, destroying crops and displacing people. The project was approved in 1980 and a foundation stone was laid in 1982. A year after the Trinamool Congress came to power, the State Government in 2012 sent a detailed project report, estimating a total cost of nearly Rs 1200 crore, to the Centre. The BJP-led Union Government later changed the funding ratio between the Centre and the State Government from 75 per cent-25 per cent to 50 per cent-50 per cent. But, with no funds being allocated, the project could not take off yet, even as the State and the Union governments continued to blame each other.

Dev says he was not keen to continue in politics as he could not get the Ghatal Master Plan implemented but agreed to contest the elections only after Mamata Banerjee announced that the state government itself would take up the mega project on its own, instead of waiting for funds from the Centre.

“They make such promises before elections, but nothing happens,” says Ananta Doloi, who lives at Nimpata, a village on the banks of the river Shilabati. Ananta and his elder brother Pramatha have already started repairing the wooden boat, which they will have to rely on during the coming monsoon once again. “I wonder where they will get the money to implement it,” Shashanka Das, a retired schoolteacher, murmurs after a TMC rally in Keshpur.

The scepticism however gets drowned in cheers for stardom.

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Published 22 May 2024, 05:57 IST

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