Fifteen candidates are in fray in the Purulia constituency, but the fight will, in reality, be bi-polar. Ophthalmic surgeon Mriganko Mahato of the Trinamul Congress, who wrested the seat in the 2014 lok sabha polls, is working hard to retain the seat and he faces a stiff challenge from the BJP’s Jyotirmoy Mahato.
Purulia had been a bastion of Forward Block for decades, but since the TMC government came into power in the state in 2011, erosion of its base started. Party offices were steadily closed and its cadre slowly switched their loyalty.
This time around also the CPI-M has handed over the seat to its alliance partner Forward Block which has fielded four time-MP Bir Singh Mahato. But, to make matters worse for the Forward Block, two time-MP Narahari Mahato recently joined the BJP.
Veteran congress candidate, Nepal Mahato, who came third in the last poll, is trying hard to improve his position.
From a mere 7 per cent vote share of the BJP in the 2014 lok sabha polls, the lotus brigade has bagged about 36 per cent vote share in 2018 three- tier panchayat polls. It won 645 out of 1943 seats, while TMC got 863 seats. Even the heavyweight candidate, Purulia Zilla Parishad sabhadipati, Srishtidhar Mahato lost the polls.
Little wonder then that in Purulia town more saffron flags are seen flying high in the streets than the TMC. The irony is that the outcome of the Purulia Lok Sabha seat, still depends on the Left front. FB’s Narahari Mahato bagged 314,400 votes, Nepal Mahato 2,57,932 votes, and Dr. Mriganko Mahato 4,68,277 votes in 2014.
As the entire organisational structure of the Forward Block has vanished in the past eight years, the left front vote bank found a viable alternative in the lotus brigade to fight the powerful TMC in Purulia.
A seat dominated by the kurmi (Mahato) and adivasi population, the TMC has been banking on the 7 per cent minority vote bank. TMC vote sharehas been 39 per cent, FB 26 per cent, congress 21 percent, BJP 7 percent in 2014.
The BJP is way ahead of others in Balarampur, Joypur, Purulia, Para (SC) assembly segments while the TMC is strong in Kashipur and Manabazar assembly seats , while Baghmundi will see a tough contest between BJP, TMC and Congress.
“ Purulia has shown the way in 2018 panchayat polls that the powerful TMC can be defeated if the opposition vote bank unites and PM Narendra Modi has rightly said that what Purulia thinks today, the rest of Bengal thinks tomorrow,” claimed Mr. Bhajahari Gorai, former FB leader now in charge of the BJP in Balarampur.
The main poll issues are drinking water, lack of irrigation canals and failure to convert one croplands, no big industry and joblessness. The grim scenario of job opportunity has not changed in the past eight years despite big claims of Rs.2 a kg of rice, kanyashree, sabujsathi, rupashree by the state government.
The moribund lac industry, which was once the pride of Purulia district and used to export to Europen countries like Germany and France has fallen behind states like Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and MP and shows no signs of a turn around despite Purulia producing over 90 per cent of the state’s lac cultivation.
To make the matter worse for state government, the vast tribal community have been vehemently opposing the proposed Rs.6922 crores Turga Dam 1000 MW pump storage hydel power project as environmental catastrophe is lurking behind the green canopies.
Many people were allegedly denied the opportunity to cast their votes in the 2016 Assembly and 2018 panchayat polls. They alleged that the Maoist menace has been replaced by the TMC terror. There are 5.5 lakhs new voters who are a cause for concern for the TMC, locals claim.