At Joynagar, SUCI banks on a doctor

Tarun Mandal, the SUCI candidate from Joynagar, knows what it is like to be in the middle of a storm. As a youth, he was leader of the junior doctors' movement in 1983 when the house staff, interns and PG students of government medical colleges and hospitals protested against the administration.

Today the doctor is busy preparing for one of the most important seats in South 24 Parganas, one the party is hopeful of winning. "The last time an SUCI candidate won here was in the 1970s when Chitta Rai contested," said Mandal.

Sitting at the Medical Service Centre, an association of voluntary organisations of doctors and nurses of which he is a part, he tells his experiences as a volunteer for relief camps for natural disasters from Bhopal gas tragedy to Bhuj quake and tsunami. He may have served as the Chief Medical Officer in Kolkata and Nasik, but he cherished his work in health clinics of Sunderbans as it made him familiar with the place, from where he is contesting.

Joynagar has traditionally been a Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) stronghold with Sanat Kumar Mandal winning the seat for the last 24 years. This time, however, the doctor is pitted against Nemai Barman. "People are annoyed because Sanat Mandal is not given a ticket even though he was a strong candidate," said Mandal. RSP is traditionally a strong ally of the Left Front and Joynagar was always considered to be a safe seat, especially since two of the six Assembly constituencies have RSP MLAs and two others are CPM.

Mandal, however, believes that people have become conscious about the political developments, especially after Singur and Nandigram. "The Left Front government has always had a very strong base among the farmers and villagers yet it performed poorly in the panchayat polls. This proves that grassroots people have lost their faith in the government," said Mandal.

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