Paupers take on the mighty in Bengal assembly race

Siliguri, April 13 (IANS) Taking on the might of crorepati candidates and the organisational machinery of established political parties in the West Bengal assembly polls are a few contestants whose total assets are as low as Rs.2,000 to Rs.7,100.

Going by the affidavits submitted by four candidates in two northern Bengal seats, none of them have any immovable assets, like house or any other property.

They work either as construction workers, or drivers or earn their living giving private tuition. One of them is a tea garden labourer.

Take the case of Rabindra Rai, who is in the fray from Siliguri in Darjeeling district.

Nominated by the Gorkha Rashtriya Congress, the 36-year-old Rai has declared that he has Rs.500 in cash, and a like amount in the bank. Rai has also added Rs.5,000 as the total value of his household items.

The resident of Ghoom is up against Trinamool Congress candidate and Indian soccer legend Bhaichung Bhutia, who has total assets worth over Rs.17 crore. The BJP nominee from the constituency, Geeta Chatterjee, is also a crorepati.

Phansidewa constituency from the same district has three candidates who are virtual paupers.

Twenty-seven-year-old Bikash Birju has Rs.7,000 in cash, and Rs.100 in the bank.

Contesting on the ticket of Bahujan Mukti Party, the 27-year-old has mentioned his profession as “mason labour”.

“I want to remove the disparities between the rich and the poor, between those from the upper classes and the lower classes,” said Birju.

Two years younger is Jemshan Tirkey, an independent, who tries to make both ends meet by giving private tuition.

The resident of Mathias Line of Gaya Ganga tea estate, Tirkey has declared total assets of Rs.2,000 — Rs.1,000 in cash and Rs.1,000 in the bank.

Another independent candidate is Sushil Lakra, a labourer in the Pahargumiya tea gardens of Bagdogra.

The 55-year-old’s assets total Rs.6,771. He has Rs.1,000 in cash and Rs.5,771 spread over two savings bank accounts.

“I want to improve the lot of the tea garden workers, who are in a pathetic state now,” said Lakra.

Facing heavy odds, these have-nots may not end up winners, but their very presence in the poll battle marks a celebration of Indian democracy.

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