Run from a two-storey building, the campaign office of Mahua Moitra, the TMC candidate from Krishnanagar constituency, is nothing short of a modern-day electioneering spectacle. It is helmed by six young Supreme Court lawyers from Delhi and supported by 30 youths from Trinamool Congress’s local unit. The team uninterruptedly works the phones and laptops round-the-clock, seeking feedback from party workers and offering immediate solutions to them.
Moitra, a former investment banker, steps in when the matter is serious. “I always do my elections like this,” she said. We are not a cadre-based party and elections are not won (just) like that. I have names of 20 party workers in all of the nearly 1,900 booths. So reaching out to everyone, training polling agents, handling procedural work, everything is done from here and my brother-in-law is heading all this,” she told PTI.
An MLA from Karimpur assembly segment in the parliamentary constituency, Moitra is fighting her maiden Lok Sabha election.
She was fielded from Krishnanagar after Mamata Banerjee’s party denied ticket to Tapas Paul, a two-time MP and actor-turned-politician.
Paul was in jail for 13 months in connection with the Rs 17,000-crore Rose Valley chit-fund scam, and had also hogged headlines for his rape comment in July 2014, for which he later apologised.
Moitra had been scouring the dust in rural areas as she tried to blunt the challenge put up by her main rivals BJP’s Kalyan Chaubey, a former Indian footballer, and CPI(M)’s Shantanu Jha, a professor of agri-sciences. A Hindutva upsurge in the region has complicated her road to success.
But she appeared confident about her win from Krishnanagar, saying she is thinking only about how big her winning margin will be.
While Mamata Banerjee has held two rallies and a roadshow in her support, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah have held public meetings for the BJP candidate.
The saffron party has identified Krishnanagar as one of the 23 seats they are targeting to win in Bengal this general election.
Let them come, it doesn’t matter. It’s a very nice place. Let the prime minister fight the election against me from here, he will lose. For me the question was never about winning or losing, the matter is I want a very good margin and I am in race for that, she said.
Moitra took a plunge into politics in 2008. Initially, she joined Congress chief Rahul Gandhi’s “Aam Aadmi Ka Sipahi” project of which she was the Bengal in-charge. Later, she joined the Trinamool Congress.
“I had managed Congress campaign for Bankura Lok Sabha seat in 2009. After that I joined Trinamool and managed campaigns for civic polls, assembly polls, panchayat elections and also fought my own election in 2016 (from Karimpur assembly seat).
“I know how to work on the ground. Once you are an MLA you learn about governance and how you have to work for people. All these things have helped me and obviously gives me an edge,” she said.
Did she ever regret or feel disenchanted with politics after leaving a cushy job in the US, where she worked as vice president at JP Morgan?
“I always knew I wanted to join politics. When I turned 30, I knew this was the time. Obviously, my family was vigorously against it. My parents would not talk to me for years. But this was what I wanted to do,” she said.
For her, she said, investment banking is no different from fighting polls.
“Both the spheres have basic things in common. You need to have capacity for physical and mental labour and both require enormous amount of self-discipline as you need to deal with the time when you go through lows. Also, you need to be perseverant and tenacious.”
Moitra said she is focussing on local issues in Krishnanagar constituency as “the local issues here are the local issues everywhere” that is infrastructure, employment.
“In Karimpur, the arsenic level in water was very high, I got that fixed as an MLA. I also built roads worth nearly Rs 60 crore. In Krishnanagar, NH-34 is a big problem. It’s owned by central agencies, have to get that done. Also need a bypass road for the town,” Moitra said.
On Tapas Paul, she said he was not well and people saw that.
“People haven’t asked me anything about him. It’s only the media which has asked me this. I have come here with my own record and my party has decided that. So I don’t think I need to say anything else,” she added, as a few Trinamool Congress workers visited her with updates of her ongoing election campaign.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the TMC managed about 35 per cent votes in the constituency, defeating the CPI(M) candidate who bagged around 29 per cent votes. BJP came third with 26 per cent votes.
Krishnanagar in Nadia district will vote in the fourth phase on April 29. The Congress has named Intaj Ali Shah.