|The Victor and the Vanquished, Photo Courtesy: Dainik Jugasankha|
Following the declaration of the Lok Sabha poll results last week, a section of Silchar’s voters have expressed great surprise at BJP leader Kabindra Purkayastha’s shock defeat. If the buzz around the alleys of the town and social media are to be believed, than the voters of this prestigious south Assam constituency were immensely keen on joining the ‘development’ bandwagon of Prime Minister designate Narendra Modi and Kabindra Babu’s defeat has put a spanner on those plans.It is probably true that had the veteran BJP leader won this year’s polls, he would have been a strong ministerial candidate from Assam. In all likelihood, he would have managed a Minister of State portfolio at least if not more. In that sense, yes we would indeed be deprived from having a representative in Modi’s ministry.
However, barring the Modi wave, was there even a single reason to vote for Kabindra Purkayastha? As a three time Member of Parliament, who had represented Silchar for more than a decade and also had a brief stint as a minister with independent charge in Atal Behari Vajpayee’s ministry in the late nineties, did he have absolutely anything to show in terms of achievements? The answer is an overwhelming no.
When the tickets were being awarded for the Lok Sabha elections, media reports suggested that senior leader Ajit Bhattacharjee and Rajdeep Roy were strong contenders to get candidature from Silchar this time. Almost at the last moment, Purkayastha made great use of his contacts in Delhi and managed the seat against the will of a large section of BJP’s cadres.
Before the elections, almost every BJP supporter confessed that they would vote for him only because they wanted Modi to take over the reins. Otherwise, they had absolutely no confidence in Purkayastha’s calibre as a public representative. The poll results now show, that only the people of the Silchar Assembly segment voted for him in large numbers while the rural voters of the remaining assembly segments decided otherwise, which eventually sealed Purkayastha’s fate.
Clearly, thanks to the influence of television and internet, the voters of Silchar town were more Modi-fied than their rural counterparts, who voted on the basis of his non-performance as well as their religious and ideological considerations, which have always decided poll results in Barak Valley’s both the constituencies.
It would not be unfair to say that even if Purkayastha had managed to become a minister, he would have done precious little for the valley. His previous tenures as MP certainly suggest that. Therefore, rather than being too disappointed, let us try to identify the silver linings.
With this defeat, Kabindra Babu will now certainly fade into political oblivion. His ouster will now the pave the way for the emergence of new leadership in the party. We can certainly hope that somebody more dynamic will get candidature from Silchar in the coming polls and challenge the Dev dynasty’s hegemony.
Silchar is so hugely engulfed in problems, that our new MP, Susmita Dev has managed to garner the support of the people only by repairing a few roads and installing a few street lights. Though she does come across as someone with the right intentions, she has done nothing spectacular either as the chief of the Municipal Board or as the MLA.
However, to be fair, Susmita has shown the promise. Repairing of roads, maintenance of health and hygiene, supply of clean water are issues that have to be taken care of. But as the MP, she has to have a vision to take her constituency forward. How the infrastructure can be improved, how more jobs can be generated, how the valley can become power sufficient, how the connectivity can be improved etc are questions she has to answer.
As a young MP, she should not face much difficulty in convincing the new dispensation in Delhi. Moreover, as one of the only three Congress MPs from Assam, she should now have sufficient clout to get work done from Dispur. If she has the will, she will certainly have the way.
However, on the flip side, we can’t forget that she is also a product of dynastical politics. Such leaders often learn the art of clinging on to power without doing much. They also manage to turn political institutions into family fiefdoms devoid of any public accountability.
During his run as the Cabinet Minister for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises in UPA 1, her father Santosh Mohan Dev had a great opportunity to change Barak Valley’s fortunes. Despite holding such an important portfolio, he coudn’t bring even one PSU to Barak Valley. The roads and other infrastructure of the town were at their worst during those years. A drainage project supposedly brought by him was launched with great fanfare but it never took off.
Her mother, Bithika Dev, former MLA and Municipal Chairperson was also an epitome of inefficiency. Her promise of turning Silchar into ‘Tilottama’ is still one of the jokes in the town. Let us hope Susmita chooses a fresh approach to politics and charts a new path. She certainly has the calibre. But will she or wont she is the question....