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In West Bengal, CPM betting on youth power to deliver

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The CPM has fielded a bunch of fresh and young faces in the West Bengal assembly election, hoping to attract youth to the party that has lost considerable ground since the 2011 defeat to Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress. The party is banking on candidates such as Meenakshi Mukherjee (Nandigram), Srijan Bhattacharya (Singur), Aishe Ghosh (Jamuria) and Dipsita Dhar (Bally) as it builds a new line of young leaders to take it forward. A party leader said nearly 70% of its candidates this time are in the age group of 25-50 years.

In Nandigram, Mukherjee is pitted against two heavyweights – chief minister Banerjee and turncoat Trinamool leader Suvendu Adhikari. At Howrah’s Bally, Dhar is contesting against Rana Chatterjee of the Trinamool and BJP’s Vaishali Dalmiya. Her journey from being a student leader at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi to the assembly polls in Bengal has evolved her into a young leader.

“The situation of students and youth have been precarious in Bengal,” Dhar said, adding that there had been allegations of rampant corruption in various job-related examinations “So, I think, it was necessary to field young people in this election.” There was a dearth of young faces in the party and the CPM and the Left Front are now increasingly realising that, as the Trinamool and the BJP have stolen a march over them in the past decade. Srijan Bhattacharya, fighting polls from Singur, is known as a 27-year-old ‘young Turk’. He too is fighting two heavyweights, BJP’s Rabindranath Bhattacharya and Trinamool’s Becharam Manna.

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  • “We have at least 50% young candidates from our party fighting the polls this time. But we need experienced seniors like Sujan Chakrabarty and Biman Bose who can prepare us for the future,” Bhattacharya told ET. The CPM has fielded Ghosh, whose name became synonymous with JNU student’s movement in the recent past, from Jamuria, where the party’s performance was unimpressive in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections – it got just 9.7% votes from the Jamuria assembly segment. It’s a tough fight for Ghosh as well, but as per party source, she is receiving a good response at her public meetings.

    In January last year, Ghosh was severely injured when a group of masked men, armed with sticks, stormed onto the JNU campus and attacked students and teachers, and vandalized property. The Delhi Police had registered an FIR naming nine students, including Ghosh. For the past decade, the CPM was a party of senior citizens. Former CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya has stayed away from politics due to health reasons, but the party still had mostly elderly faces like Biman Bose, Sujan Chakrabarty, Rabin Deb and Surya Kanta Mishra.

    Experts said the party had not fielded so many young candidates in the past three decades. Several of them expect this to have an impact on the vote share of the grand alliance it is part of. “The voters prefer young faces and have support and empathy for them. It is likely to work for the CPM,” said Udayan Bandopadhyay, an analyst.

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