This Article is From Oct 03, 2015

High Stakes at Salt Lake Civic Polls in Kolkata

Kolkata: The Salt Lake Municipal Corporation in Kolkata goes to the polls on Saturday and campaigning is peaking. Also called Bidhannagar, Salt Lake is the upscale township east of Kolkata with 41 seats over four lakh voters. The Trinamool Congress ran the civic body earlier. Now, new areas have been added and the electoral math is a little more complicated.

But math is for politicians. Voters want facilities. Mitalee, a Salt Lake resident, wants better roads. "I drive a two wheeler and the roads are full of potholes. They are repaired sometimes but one shower of rain and it is back to the pavilion," she says. Ranbir has a water issue. "There is a huge shortage of drinking water in summer. And waterlogging during the monsoons."

Civic issues will be addressed, say the candidates. But political stakes are high. This is the last chance for the Opposition to dent Trinamool before assembly polls next year. So the CPM has deployed its finance minister Dr Asim Dasgupta, possibly as the mayoral candidate.  

"Both roles are equally important. As finance minister, I was marshalling finances for the state. These are used by panchayats or civic bodies. It is very important to be associated with the other part also for someone who has always believed in decentralization. So I am very happy," he says.

For Trinamool, Salt Lake is vital - to prove it is not losing urban voters as some feel it is. A real estate boom has sprouted 'syndicates' allegedly close to the ruling party which extort money from builders. The party is faction-riven. Opposition claims it also plans to use strong arm tactics on polling day and has already imported trouble-makers.

Trinamool legislator and probable mayoral candidate, Sabyasachi Dutta, is guaranteeing peaceful polls. "If any citizen with a valid voter card can't vote, just give me a call on voting day. I will be there for his voting right," he says.

They are civic polls, certainly, but also the last major elections in West Bengal before the state goes to Assembly polls next year. And they will show which way the winds are blowing.