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Lok Sabha polls 2024: Challenge is to make voters move beyond TMC-BJP binary, says CPI(M) young Turk Dipsita Dhar

Thirty-year-old Dhar, a first timer in parliamentary polls, embodies her party’s current thrust on highlighting young Turks in electoral politics.
Last Updated : 13 April 2024, 09:21 IST
Last Updated : 13 April 2024, 09:21 IST

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Kolkata: The real challenge before the Left in West Bengal for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls lies not in fighting the might of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the BJP, but in shattering the perception in people’s minds that no alternative currently exists beyond the TMC-saffron camp binary, said Dipsita Dhar, the Left Front-backed CPI(M) candidate from the Serampore seat.

Thirty-year-old Dhar, a first timer in parliamentary polls, embodies her party’s current thrust on highlighting young Turks in electoral politics.

The Serampore constituency falls largely in the state’s Hooghly district, but it also encapsulates parts of neighbouring Howrah. This is where Dhar takes on TMC veteran and incumbent advocate Kalyan Banerjee and his former son-in-law Kabir Shankar Bose representing the saffron brigade.

“Take a close look at the 2021 state election results in my area and you will find that the BJP had placed itself comfortably as the prime challenger to Bengal’s ruling TMC. The Left forces were down to a distant third position in those polls,” she told PTI in an interview.

“Cut to the panchayat polls of 2023 and you’ll find that the scenario has changed. In almost all places the Left candidates rose to the number two position pushing the BJP out. That, despite those polls being far from free and fair,” Dhar said.

She claimed it proves that people have begun moving beyond the binary of “TMC’s misrule and BJP’s communal polarization of masses” and called it a “space of hope”.

“People are keen to trust us. It’s up to us now to reciprocate adequately to that sentiment,” she said.

Drawing the example of migrant workers of Serampore in particular and across the state in general, Dhar said workers’ migration, from blue-collar workers to their white-collar counterparts, is real.

From Zari and Aari workers to jewellers and skilled hands in small industries, workers are migrating to other parts of India due to large discrepancies in wages.

“We think Parliament elections are not just about addressing the roti-kapda-makaan issues. It’s also about intervening and changing national policies. That’s why we are demanding uniformity in wages of workers across the country, enhancing the minimum work guarantee to 200 days from the existing 100 and hiking daily wages from Rs 100 to Rs 600."

“We are also talking about fixing the state’s responsibilities for migrant workers in terms of guaranteeing their social security,” she said.

Granddaughter to Late Padma Nidhi Dhar, a three-time CPI(M) MLA from Domjur which forms part of the Serampore constituency, Dipsita, a student of Geography who finished her Master's from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi and is currently pursuing PhD from the same institution, finds electoral politics “adding dimensions” to her political maturity.

“In my initial years in partisan politics, I was mostly involved in participating in pan-India social movements like the anti-NRC-CAA agitations, Shaheen Baag protests, movement against hijab ban in Karnataka institutions, wrestlers’ protest against Brij Bhushan Singh, farmers’ long march and running workers’ canteens during the Covid-19 years,” Dhar recounted.

She joined the CPI(M) in 2013 and became the All India Joint Secretary of SFI in 2018.

Dhar stated that the exposure since 2019, when the party began using youngsters like her for Lok Sabha poll campaigns in Bengal and Kerala, and, subsequently, in the Bihar elections, helped budding leaders gain a better understanding of the people’s pulse.

“While the previous experiences were topical, electoral politics opened up a broader sense of issues that are connected to the daily existence of people... Issues like non-receipt of old-age pension, lack of roads or clean drinking water, open vats on roads and so on. They made me think how I should respond to these as an MP candidate,” she explained.

“This added dimension opens you up. The campaign trail makes you speak less and turns you into a better listener to people’s distresses,” added Dhar who allows people to question her directly during her mass outreach schedules.

Dhar’s personal brush with electoral politics began in 2021 when she unsuccessfully contested the assembly election from Bally in Howrah where she finished third after TMC’s Rana Chatterjee, who won the seat, and BJP’s Baishali Dalmiya, garnering 17.5 per cent votes, just enough to save her poll deposit.

But considering that the Left forces were virtually decimated in those elections with the party’s vote share plummeting to an ignominious 4.73 per cent, Dhar seems to have fared better than most of her comrades in the poll fray.

So, where does Dhar’s claimed “change in people’s mindset”, two years down the line, leave the red brigade in Bengal in terms of prioritizing its political and ideological offensive against the TMC and BJP?

“At the national level, our primary fight is against the BJP’s Hindutva and communally polarisation politics. But in Bengal, the TMC’s proactive and unnecessary gestures for the Muslims giving impressions of appeasement have allowed the BJP to gain a foothold based on their majoritarian politics. It is the Trinamool which ushered in the BJP since it assumed power in 2011,” she argued.

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Published 13 April 2024, 09:21 IST

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