This retail hub has 11 wards –– eight under TMC and three with the BJP. To reach out to the dominant population of Marwaris and Biharis here, the TMC has fielded Gupta, a former Rajya Sabha MP, who also heads the party’s Hindi Prachar Cell and runs a popular Hindi newspaper ‘Sanmarg’.
“I have reached out to every section here in the last two months. My work to change their lives has already begun,” Gupta told ET. He has promised to bring about a facelift to the constituency, including putting Jorasanko on the tourism map, providing clean water and proper garbage disposal systems.
Dismissing Gupta as an “outsider”, Purohit says: “I have been working here for 25 years. Only one who has lived here can understand the problems of this place. People are not going to forgive the TMC for their tolabaaji and syndicate raj. They are just waiting to cast their vote against the party.”
A long-time resident, Dwarkanath Bose, said Jorasanko, till 2011, usually elects someone from the trading community.
“The BJP has a strong organisation here, but there is also some disappointment that despite all its strength, the party’s councillors have not done much for the trading community,” he said. TMC has asked all its eight councillors to ensure that the party secures maximum seats in the civic polls to be held later this year.
However, a BJP worker said all the three party councillors have been united in supporting Purohit’s candidature as she was the senior-most. “Our candidate Rahul Sinha had a lead in Jorasanko in 2019 too. If there is a seat in Kolkata we are confident about, it is Jorasanko,” the person said.
Voters here said there was much anger against sitting MLA Smita Bakshi, wife of a party strongman, who won this seat in 2011 and 2016. “She did not understand the interest of the traders, nor residents. Vivek Gupta doesn’t carry her baggage, but he is fighting a tough battle,” one of them said. The Bengali voters, who constitute almost 20%, might swing the votes. “They want stability. The Bihari voters, most of whom are casual wage workers, travel to their hometown this time of the year after harvest and might not be available to vote,” he added.
TMC leaders admit that the BJP is in a strong position here, but Gupta has reached out to all trader groups to assuage their sentiments against the TMC. There are around 45 trader associations in this area, and two wholesale markets –– Burrabazar and Posta –– apart from the shopping areas of Bagri market.
“He was the first to speak for us against excise duty on gold jewellery,” said Sanjay Saraf at Johri market.
Muslims, who constitute around 30% of the voters, will be a critical factor as people in Zakaria Street, Marcus Square, Mechhua and Madan Mohan Burma had supported the anti-CAA protests last year. Even Purohit reached out to the community and was seen visiting a mazaar with her head covered with a white cloth. “My party stands for sabka saath sabka vikaas. We want everyone to vote for us,” Purohit told ET.
Gupta said it was hypocritical that the BJP had left Muslim voters out of its campaign all these months but thought of them towards the end of the campaign. “They have removed urdu even in the voters’ slips. Then what is the necessity of such pretences.”
Jorasanko, which usually records 60-65% voting, has a significant number of absentee voters, mainly those who live in other parts of the city but continue to hold residences here because of the low rentals. This is segment which will be watched. Gupta and Purohit have been taking up only door-to-door campaigns in the last few days.
The BJP has made an issue of Gupta’s paper Sanmarg publishing a story about all the three hospitals in Barabazaar being overcrowded with patients. “The TMC candidate, through his paper, is spreading fear so that they don’t come out and vote,” a BJP party worker said.
Gupta said, apart from campaigning, he was also fighting “fake news”.
“Instead of asking people to chant Jai Shri Ram, they should be doing what lord Ram did when his brother was wounded. Arrange for sanjivani booti for the nation ravaged by Covid-19. But they are busy spreading propaganda,” he was heard telling voters on Monday.