CPI(M) banks on new faces for a potential turnaround in West Bengal

Young faces of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) contesting the Lok Sabha election in south Bengal have generated a curiosity amongst voters

Published - May 17, 2024 02:13 am IST - Kolkata

CPI(M) south Kolkata candidate Srijan Bhattacharyya while campaigning for the Lok Sabha Election.

CPI(M) south Kolkata candidate Srijan Bhattacharyya while campaigning for the Lok Sabha Election. | Photo Credit: Debasish Bhaduri

Surrounded by grey-haired party supporters sloganeering with Communist Party of India (Marxist) flags, an energetic Srijan Bhattacharyya weaved his way through Kolkata’s ward 97 in Tollygunge, waving and greeting locals,?Ashirbaad deben?(Give us your blessings).?

The 31-year-old Mr. Bhattacharyya is one of the many next-generation candidates fielded by the CPI(M) in key constituencies across West Bengal, for this year’s Lok Sabha election. He is contesting in the urban constituency of Jadavpur, against 31-year-old actress Saayoni Ghosh, who is the president of the West Bengal Trinamool Youth Congress, and Anirban Ganguly of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Jadavpur is set to vote in the seventh phase of the Parliamentary elections on June 1.?

An erstwhile Left bastion, the Jadavpur constituency witnessed a thumping Trinamool victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Trinamool candidate, actress Mimi Chakraborty, won with 6,88,472 votes while the CPI(M), represented by party veteran Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya, made up 21% of the total vote share.

“We are doing things in a new way, true to our political ideology but without the burden of past baggage,” Srijan Bhattacharyya told The Hindu. “When the majority of a population is young, it is easier to get the message across through communicators who represent the generation and speak their language. That is the main advantage we have as young candidates,” he said.

As locals gathered in small numbers to catch a glimpse of Mr. Bhattacharyya’s campaign, an elderly woman approached him, garland in hand. “When you are young, there is a special kind of affection and adoration that you experience from your elders. They have a soft corner for us,” Mr. Bhattacharyya observed.

According to Mr. Bhattacharyya, modern tools like artificial intelligence (AI) have long been part of CPI(M)’s attempts to attract young voters. “We also keep up with the times by using memes, cartoons, and short videos to appeal to the youth,” he added. “Sometimes singing a song or two during a campaign, or referencing the dialogue of a Hindi film can also help strike a chord with them.”

Also Read | Blend of youth and experience CPI(M)‘s mantra for winning back people’s confidence in Bengal

Although young, this is not Mr. Bhattacharyya’s first election. In the 2021 West Bengal Assembly election, he lost from the contentious Singur constituency to Trinamool’s incumbent MLA Becharam Manna. An MA holder from Jadavpur University, Mr. Bhattacharyya served as the State secretary of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI).

Meanwhile, on May 20, 30-year-old research scholar Dipsita Dhar will contest Trinamool heavyweight and three-time MP Kalyan Banerjee in Serampore. “We were the natural choice of the party, since the young people of our country are going through a major crisis,” Ms. Dhar told The Hindu. “83% of the total unemployed population are from my generation, and we have been vocal on the issue of unemployment and education for quite a long time now,” she said.

Ms. Dhar is the All India Joint Secretary of SFI. In the 2021 State Assembly election, she was the CPI(M) candidate from Bally Assembly constituency, who lost to Trinamool candidate Rana Chatterjee.

As a youth leader, Ms. Dhar believes in acknowledging, accepting, and rectifying her party’s past mistakes. “There had been some mistakes in the past, we should be able to acknowledge it and be in a position to rectify it. We do not try to disassociate from the past, both from the glorious one, and the places we have done wrong,” she added.?

In Tamluk, which goes to poll on May 25, 31-year-old advocate Sayan Banerjee of the CPI(M) is set to contest former general secretary of Trinamool Youth Congress, Debangshu Bhattacharya, and former Calcutta High Court judge Abhijit Gangopadhyay of the BJP. Meanwhile, contesting Trinamool heavyweight Abhishek Banerjee at Diamond Harbour on June 1 is CPI(M)’s Pratikur Rahaman (33), who had lost to Trinamool’s Pannalal Halder in the 2021 Assembly election.

Rajya Sabha MP and CPI(M) veteran Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya expressed full confidence in the young candidates of the party. “They would represent honest politics for the welfare of the society, not politics for personal gain,” he said.

According to him, it would have been unwise to not acknowledge the biological limits of the old guard. “Of course we rely on the old guard because of their experience and guidance, but the young guards need to be brought in front,” Mr. Bhattacharyya added.

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