Kolkata, April 21 (IANS) Jyotirmoyee Sikdar won laurels aplenty for the country back in the days when she was a middle-distance runner. Now the golden girl is eyeing victory in another race – the assembly contest – armed with her past experience in the electoral fray and hoping to exploit to the hilt the Saradha scam and the raging Narada videotape controversy against West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress.
The 46-year-old is fighting on a Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) ticket from the Sonarpur North constituency on the city’s southern outskirts.
Criss-crossing the constituency with great speed, Sikdar is bringing up other issues as well, like last month’s Vivekananda Road flyover collapse in North Kolkata, farmers’ suicides, unemployment and the closure of factories.
“I am getting tired of saying all these things and this government has done it all in a span of just five years,” Sikdar told IANS in an interview.
Around 243,374 voters are eligible to press the EVM button on April 30 when the constituency goes to the hustings. Sikdar, who won the women’s 800m and 1500m golds at the 1998 Busan Asian Games, says she is confident of clinching it.
But results in the recent past and the Trinamool’s organisational might make it look like an uphill task for Sikdar, who is up against sitting legislator Firdousi Begum of the Trinamool and Satyabrata Dutta of the Bharatiya Janata Party in an eight-cornered fight.
In 2011, Firdausi had humbled the CPI-M’s Shaymal Naskar in the then newly-created constituency by over 26,000 votes. Three years later, Sugato Bose, the Trinamool’s candidate from the Jadavpur Lok Sabha seat got a 16,000-plus lead from the assembly segment. The Congress nominee had then bagged a mere 4,792 votes, which Jyotirmoyee now expects to corner because of the CPI-M-led Left Front’s tie-up with the Congress in this election.
The decider could be the over 24,000 votes that the BJP had polled from the assembly segment in 2014. With all opinion polls indicating a downswing in the BJP’s fortunes, it remains to be seen who gains the most from the likely drop in the saffron party’s vote percentage.
“I am going to win, there is very little doubt in it. People have grown tired of the Trinamool in just five years. Others don’t stand a chance,” said Sikdar, a recipient of the Padma Shri, India’s third highest civilian honour, and the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, the highest award for a sportsperson.
Sikdar’s confidence stems from her experience of serving a stint as a Lok Sabha member representing Krishnanagar between 2004 and 2009.
Asked about her plans for the constituency if she wins the May 19 vote count, Sikdar said: “First and foremost is improvement in the law and order, so that everyone lives in peace.
“Now, everyone’s living in fear. Women are not safe. We went to Kamalgaji bridge the other day and heard that hooligans riding bikes are threatening women and eve-teasing. There is absolutely no law and order here.”
“Then comes development, infrastructural development. We need to focus on how to build new roads. Here people also have problems relating to drinking water.
“There are also water-logging blues. There are practically no roads in the village areas. During Trinamool rule, there have been cases of forcible takeover of land. I first want these things to stop.”
The former athlete says she is still very fit and the gruelling election campaign has not taken a toll on her.
“I am walking 25 to 30 km every day. But some of my workers are unable to keep pace with me due to the extreme heat. Being a former runner is helping me now. And I am used to this gruelling schedule, Jyotirmoyee concluded.
(Debdoot Das can be contacted at email@example.com)