In Jangipur, Former Prez’s Son Faces BJP’s Female Muslim Candidate
The constituency of Jangipur has been a Congress bastion. The seat, previously held by former President Pranab Mukherjee, is now held by his son Avijit, for two terms.
This time, however, the BJP has thrown up an unique challenge. Contesting against Avijit, is the BJP’s first-ever female Muslim Lok Sabha candidate Mahfuza Khatun.
The Quint travelled to Jangipur to catch up with both.
Never Underestimate Anyone, Always Think I’m The Weakest Candidate: Avijit
We met Avijit Mukherjee at his house in Jangipur called “Jangipur Bhawan” right as he was about to start his campaign for the day.
"This is my fourth election in six-and-a-half years. I don't think anybody in India has fought three elections – two Lok Sabha and one Assembly – in three-and-a-half years. All three I could win. But the first win was really handsome and the rest two marginal. It is tough and a lot of patience is required,” he said.
The patience bit, he explains, also involves dealing with scores of people who come to meet him everyday, even as the campaign keeps him busy.
“I now have to travel 50 km for my roadshow. People, who are not even from my constituency, have come to meet me. I’m getting late, but I have to entertain them. It’s a part of my job,” he says.
Speaking about his adversary from the BJP and her powerful social media presence, Avijit says that it will not affect his or his party’s chances at all.
“The BJP was always there. Last time they got less than 1 lakh votes. The BJP is a cadre-based party. Whether it is Muslim or Hindu doesn’t matter. They’ll vote for their own cadre. Whether it is male or female doesn’t matter. People who are voting for the Congress will vote for the hand symbol. It’s like that,” he argues.
But will an alliance with the Left Front, as was being negotiated, have helped his chances?
"Last time also there was an alliance. In Jangipur, out of 7 Assembly segments, one was from Left and we gave them full support. Particularly in Jangipur vidhan sabha and the next vidhan sabha – Sagardighi – they fielded their candidates. They got defeated, we also got defeated. This means the alliance didn't sail through,” he says.
Does he still get advice from his father?
“He just said drink lots of water and reach out.”
Avijit concludes by saying that even after winning three elections, he does not underestimate anyone.
“Rather I underestimate myself. I always think that I'm the weakest candidate amongst all. So I have to work hard. Indira Gandhi also lost. I'm not a personality like Indira ji,” he says.
Those Who Don’t Know Me Via Social Media, Will Know Me Now: Mahfuza Khatun
Ever since she was announced as a candidate after a press conference held by the BJP leadership in Delhi, Mahfuza Khatun’s speeches (as a part of her campaign) have gone viral.
She is the first-ever female Muslim candidate to be fielded by the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections.
A former CPI(M) leader, she says that the switch to BJP was due to “Narendra Modi’s vision’’.
But is it daunting to go up against a former President’s son?
“Not at all,” is her response. “The present Congress MP made false promises to the people in 2014 to get votes. Before that, his father, our former President, was the MP here, he was the finance minister of the country, and resigned after he became President. In the by-election the present MP again ran for office and the people blessed him handsomely. If we look at these two terms we can see that he has lied to the people to get votes. This time the people will give him the appropriate response through the ballot box,” she says.
We ask her about how her opponents are attacking her by saying that she’s not from Jangipur but was a councillor from Dinajpur earlier.
“Jangipur or Dinajpur. There’s a PUR in both!,” she laughs. “You’ve seen that my videos have gone viral on social media. Not just in Murshidabad but all over India and the world, crossing 2 crore viewers. Such a person can’t be limited to one area. Those who don’t know me even now will know me through my campaign. I will reach out to everyone.”