By bappaditya paul
The Aam Aadmi Party may have failed to strike a chord with the people of Bengal but a group of frontline civil rights activists from Kolkata are now camping in Mumbai to campaign for fellow activist Medha Patkar who is in the poll fray as an AAP candidate from Mumbai North East Lok Sabha seat.Mr Amitava Mitra and Mr Kalyan Sengputa, who have long been associated with the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) of which Ms Patkar is the national convener, reached Mumbai today. Other activists from Kolkata such as Mr Avik Saha, Mr Tapas Kar and Mr Sujato Bhadra are expected to join them in a day or two.
The Mumbai North East Lok Sabha constituency goes to the polls on 24 April.
The rights group from Kolkata said they would specifically campaign among the Bengali-speaking voters of the constituency, which comprised the Assembly segments of Mulund, Vikhroli, Bhandup West, Ghatkopar West, Ghatkopar East and Mankhurd Shivaji Nagar.
Of them the suburban Ghatkopar West and Ghatkopar East segments have a sizable number of Bengali population, mostly from the low-income strata.
“We are going to Mumbai on our individual initiative to express solidarity for Medhaji with whom we have been working on social issues for a very long time. The plan is to campaign amongst the Bengali voters there and shoulder any other responsibility that might be given to us,” said Mr Sujato Bhadra who is associated with the Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR).
On their first day in Mumbai, the Kolkata rights activists got a taste of the hardships that Ghatkopar residents face everyday. “We could not take a shower today for want of water. Water scarcity is a grave issue in Ghatkopar,” Mr Mitra said over the phone from Mumbai.
The Kolkata team has taken with them donations amounting to Rs 30,000 in cheques. Many more are sending their contribution to Ms Patkar’s election fund directly by post and through online transfer.
The city’s rights activists however make it clear that their support is for Ms Patkar and not necessarily the AAP. “We are supporting Medhaji as we believe her election to the Parliament will bolster the civil rights movement in the country. As regards AAP, the party seemed to be not focusing on Bengal for now and has no organisation as such in the state,” Mr Mitra said clarifying that they will not campaign for AAP candidates in Bengal.
Of the four candidates that AAP has nominated from Barrackpore, Howrah, Kolkata North and Raigunj Lok Sabha seats in Bengal, only the one from Raigunj ~ Mr Pasarul Alam ~ is an active social rights activist.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report was first published in The Statesman on 13 April 2014 under a different headline.)