9th time in fray, CPM stalwart still running strong
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In a constituency where the Left has dictated terms ever since Congress candidate Atulya Ghosh was defeated by CPI contender and trade union leader J M Biswas in 1967, veteran CPM leader Basudeb Acharya — Tamil in origin — has held sway in Bankura for eight consecutive terms since being elected for the first time in 1980.
While the Congress says a challenge has been posed to his reign in this SC and ST dominated constituency through fielding Bengal heavyweight Subrata Mukherjee, Acharya himself appeared unflapped when Indian Express Senior Correspondent Kartyk Venkatraman caught up with him.
You have had an extremely long tenure in Parliament, how do you feel about entering the fray yet again?
This is the ninth time I am standing for elections. I have been a part of the Parliament from the 7th to the 14th Lok Sabha. This is my life, my job.
The state Congress has cast aspersions on your "non-Bengali" status. Your response?
I am a fifth-generation Tamil living in Bengal. I hail from the only Tamil-dominated village in this state, Bero in Purulia district. My family's roots are in Kancheepuram, but we don't speak the language anymore. At least, I can't. I have worked for this state all my life. I am more Bengali than Tamil.
How do you view the challenge posed by Congress' Subrata Mukherjee?
He has no principles. He has been in and out of the Congress and the Trinamool. He even held the post of Kolkata Mayor with Trinamool backing while being a sitting Congress MLA. We are confident of winning and improving on the 60 per cent we achieved in 2004. Also, the opposition vote will be divided between the BJP, SUCI, Congress and the Jharkhand-based tribal parties. Mukherjee has been trying to win over the tribal votebank. He held meetings with Jharkhand-based party leaders, including the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, but failed to strike a deal. I have information that there was an offer of money in exchange of votes as well. I admit there are fractures in our tribal votebank due to Maoist influence, but it won't affect us.
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