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Will BJP’s Efforts to Woo Bolpur Voters Add New Hue to Next ‘Dol Jatra’ in Tagore’s Beloved Shantiniketan?

Although the BJP is yet to register a win in the region, barring a handful of panchayat seats, that the saffron party is breathing down the ruling party’s neck in Bolpur and its surroundings is not hard to note.

Sujit Nath | News18.com

Updated:April 28, 2019, 5:01 PM IST
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Will BJP’s Efforts to Woo Bolpur Voters Add New Hue to Next ‘Dol Jatra’ in Tagore’s Beloved Shantiniketan?
File photo of Visva Bharati at Shantiniketan.
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Kolkata: For decades, the ‘lal mati’ (red soil) of Bolpur had hedged its bets on the Left Front. However, that was until 2011, when along with the rest of Bengal, the district town moved towards Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress.

Since 2014, in almost all the polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seemed to be gaining serious grounds in terms of vote-share.

Although the BJP is yet to register a win in the region, barring a handful of panchayat seats, that the saffron party is breathing down the ruling party’s neck in Bolpur and its surroundings is not hard to note.

What added to the Trinamool’s woes is serious infighting and a switch-over by a large number of Muslims in villages around Bolpur, who were earlier aligned with Left Front constituents — the Forward Bloc and RSP, besides the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

The famous Shantiniketan or Tagore’s beloved ashram town is situated in Bolpur. Here, the politics is not much different from the entire region, though residents never were that deep into politics.

Since 1971 to 2014, their association with Left politics was more intellectually driven and they were more adhering to the philosophy of humanism propagated by the ashram town and the attached university, Visva Bharati.

Although things have changed much since the early days of independence, Shantiniketan locals were always more comfortable aligning with the Congress due to Tagore’s close association with India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who had even sent his daughter, Indira, to Visva Bharati for higher education.

Later, the CPI (M) stormed this ‘bhadrolok’s (gentlemen) bastion which was until the 60s guided by the grand old party.

Supriya Tagore, the great-grandson of the bard’s elder brother Satyendranath Tagore, says, “Whoever comes to power, I think the sanctity of this land of Tagore should be maintained. I expect development, better sense and education to be the priorities.”

With the scenario fast changing and the BJP gaining more ground in the region, Shantiniketan residents may find it hard to choose the right candidate.

If on the one hand, their core Bengali cultural identity seems to be preventing them from associating with the saffron party, on the other hand, they are uncomfortable standing up for Mamata Banerjee, whose brand of politics is not so palatable for most residents here.

On Monday, when Shantiniketan goes to polls, this catch-22-like situation and the BJP’s challenge to change the town’s aesthetes’ political thought is certainly going to decide the colour of the next ‘Dol Jatra’ (Holi festival) and ‘Poush Mela’ (annual fair).

This time, seven-time MP and CPI(M) leader Ram Chandra Dome (he held the Birbhum Lok Sabha constituency from 1989 to 2009) is contesting against the Trinamool’s Asit Kumar Mal. The BJP is being represented by Ram Prashad Das, while the Congress has fielded Abhjit Saha.

Since the 2009 general election, the Bolpur constituency has been a reserved seat for candidates belonging to the Scheduled Caste category. It is divided into seven legislative Assembly segments.

The 2014 general election saw the TMC’s Anupam Hazra (now with the BJP) defeating Dome by a margin of 2,36,112 votes.

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| Edited by: Sohini Goswami
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