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Poll date: 12 May

Jadavpur

Key candidates: Sugata Bose, TMC I Sujan Chakraborty, CPM I Samir Aich, INC

An elderly woman in a crumpled white cotton sari stands by the roadside, clutching a bunch of flowers, as a massive All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) rally meanders down the serpentine lanes of Santoshpur in south Kolkata’s Jadavpur constituency.

She has a puzzled look when asked about the identity of the man standing on the open vehicle, garlands piled up around his neck, head bowed and hands folded in a namaste. Nudged by her companion, she says, “Sugata Bose."

She doesn’t seem to know anything more, nor does she care. “He has been chosen by Mamatadi (Banerjee). He must be a good man," she says triumphantly after showering the Jadavpur TMC candidate with petals.

“Netaji-er gharer chhele ke vote din, vote din! (vote for the boy who belongs to Netaji’s family)"—the sloganeers are at their loudest as they ask people to vote for nationalist leader Subhas Chandra Bose’s great-nephew, who has replaced sitting MP Kabir Suman as the TMC candidate.

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Sujan Chakraborty meeting voters in Boral

With Ma, Mamata and Netaji on his lips and Delhi in his eyes, Bose came home to a hero’s welcome on the first day (2 April) of his campaigning in his constituency. Attended by thousands of supporters, the rally covered a distance of over 15km in 4 hours.

As mercury levels rise, the election heat too is on the increase in Kolkata, with candidates trying hard to connect with their voters. Relying on rallies, padyatras, street-corner meetings and door-to-door campaigning, the emphasis is on the personal touch, the traditional way. Social media does not seem to be anyone’s chosen medium of communication in the Jadavpur constituency, half of which comprises semi-urban or rural suburbs. Bose’s online presence is marked by his website, the home page of which highlights the books he has written on his great-uncle, His Majesty’s Opponent and Deshnayak.

The Jadavpur constituency comprises seven assembly constituencies—Tollygunge, Jadav-pur, Bhangar, the two Sonarpurs (North and South) and the two Baruipurs (East and West). It had over 1.3 million voters in 2009; the list is still being updated.

Sujan Chakraborty of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM, who represented Jadavpur from 2004-09, has been an early bird. He has been campaigning door-to-door, two shifts a day—greeting voters on the way, stopping to chat briefly with the youth or pat the heads of children. “This is nothing new to me. I keep meeting people in my constituency at all times. They know me well," says the veteran politician. He hopes to cover his entire constituency.

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Historian, pharmaceutical engineer, professor, painter—the backgrounds of candidates in this constituency are diverse. The big fight, however, seems to be between Bose and Chakraborty.

“He (Bose) is immensely educated, comes from an extraordinary background and understands us well. He is the ideal one," says Anita Das, a housewife from Rajapur who had joined the rally.

But not all are willing to buy her argument. “He is well-known as an academic, but it is not clear whether he will be any good in politics," Pritam Bhadra, a comparative literature student at Jadavpur University, says.

Some young women voters are not in the mood to forgive Banerjee for her unsympathetic comments and inept handling of rape cases, such as the Park Street and Madhyamgram cases, in the state.

“I am not voting for the Trinamool Congress," says 20-year-old Adwitiya Ghosh from Jadavpur, a first-time voter. “I cannot trust anyone from her party given that many of them had made adverse comments on rapes and women, last year and she had done nothing about it." Clearly, Banerjee’s chosen candidate, Bose, is likely to face the brunt.

What may further muddy waters is that it’s still not clear how the story of TMC rebel Kabir Suman will play out.

Meanwhile, in Boral, as Chakraborty’s procession passes by a pond in the Bagher Khol neighbourhood, a middle-aged housewife, Rita Das, is smiling to herself. “I’m thinking...I’ve always voted for the CPM, my parents have always done that and so have my in-laws’ family," she says, squeezing out water from a pair of check Bermuda shorts. “Nothing has changed in our lives. Nothing."

So, this time, will she vote for someone else?

“No. It’s almost like religion now. I cannot change what I’ve always done."

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