In West Bengal, Ghani Khan Choudhury’s political heirs may be swept away by BJP's saffron surge

Sometime in the past, besides the internationally acclaimed and succulent mango variety called the ‘Fazli’, Malda in West Bengal was near synonymous with the name of Abu Barkat Ataur Ghani Khan Choudhury aka ‘Barkatda’. Widely accepted as a Congress strongman — not an easy achievement when West Bengal was under strong Left rule, Malda parliamentary constituency was his for the taking and he did it with aplomb for a record eight times from 1984 to the 2004 parliamentary elections.

 In West Bengal, Ghani Khan Choudhury’s political heirs may be swept away by BJPs saffron surge

Representational image. AFP

Things have changed this election, if counting trends are anything to go by. Barkatda’s bastion has been breached.

Malda was sliced into two by the Delimitation Commission in 2009 — Maldaha Uttar (North) and Maldaha Dakshin (South). While Barkatda’s brother Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury aka ‘Dalu’ took over the political cudgels in Maldaha Dakshin and became the junior health minister in the UPA II government while Maldaha Uttar was represented in the last Lok Sabha by Mausam Benazir Noor, Barkatda’s niece. That way, power stayed put in the Ghani Khan Choudhury family.

But not this time in 2019. The family may finally bow down to a renewed saffron surge. In the fray were three of Barkatda’s kin. Isha Khan Chowdhury contested from the Malda North seat, his father Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury from Malda South—both on Congress tickets -- while Mausam Noor stood from the Malda North seat on a Trinamool ticket.

At noon, Noor was trailing BJP's Khagen Murmu by more than 15,000 votes with Canada-bred Isha nowhere in the race. In the Maldaha Dakshin seat, 'Daluda' was trailing BJP's Sreerupa Mitra Chaudhury by more than 9,000 votes. If these trends holds, this could be the end of the political legacy of the powerful patriarch.

Undivided Malda has a population of more than 40 lakh people of whom about 86 percent are Bengali-speaking. Of this, about 52 per cent are Bengali Muslims while 48 per cent Hindu Bengalis. At about 53 per cent, Maldaha Uttar (North) has more Hindus while Malda Dakshin is dominated by Muslims who comprise about 60 per cent of the population.

Malda, and to be more specific, Kaliachawk, a small town located near the Indo-Bangladesh border, has gained infamy as the fake currency capital of India. This illegal trade is facilitated due to the proximity to the near porous border with Bangladesh from where the fake notes enter India. The other obvious notoriety is the alleged huge presence of Bangladeshis who have reportedly illegally sneaked across the border.

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Updated Date: May 23, 2019 12:59:58 IST