Kolkata: Jangipur or Jahangirpur has been a bone of contention for political parties this election. Given the fact that the people of this constituency sent both Congress and CPM seven times each to Lok Sabha (Lower House of Indian Parliament). But problems like unemployment, arsenic-contaminated drinking water, little or no industrialisation and poor road connectivity still haunts this constituency.
The Welfare Party of India has fielded it’s president Dr SQR Ilyas from Jangipur. Dr Ilyas, a PhD in Chemistry has been a journalist too. Another introduction of Dr Ilyas is, he is the father of student leader Umar Khalid, who has been accused of sedition charges on the basis of doctored videos along with Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student Kanhaiya Kumar. Interesting questions like a native of Maharashtra, he chooses to contest from Jangipur and why WPI prepared a separate manifesto for Jangipur, why he feels that people in Jangipur are in a mood for change along with many other significant questions Dr Ilyas answered for eNewsroom.
Following are excerpts:
eNewsroom: Why you choose Jangipur to contest?
Dr Ilyas: Even after 72 years of India getting independence, Jangipur continues to enjoy the status of being a ‘backward’ place. Despite it being a jute producer, there are no jute factories here. This town has been deprived of any progress in these many years by all their elected representatives. There are no proper roads and lesser public transport facility. With no other factories other than the bidi factories, which often exploits them, in Jangipur, the men often move out to other Indian states to work as migrant labours.
The water table here has a serious arsenic contamination issue. But the state government, including the elected MPs from this town, have done little to make it possible for the locals to have access to safe drinking water. The rich or the well-off people in this town simply buy packaged water to drink, while the poor continue drinking the contaminated water. The condition is deplorable here.
All these factors have made me choose this constituency which WPI has adopted with a vision of making the locals aware of their right, whether we win or don’t win the election.
eNewsroom: What makes you think that TMC has failed in Jangipur, which has about 70 per cent Muslim population?
Dr Ilyas: Mamata Banerjee, I believe likes to promote herself and her party as the only saviour for the Muslims, when in reality she does the basic or minimal work for the community’s development. Why has there been no industry set up in Jangipur even after being in power for seven years now? Why there is no proper college here when the neighbouring town Nadia has plenty of educational institutes.
There is actually very little work that has been done at the ground level for Jangipur to become a developed town.
eNewsroom: Did you face the ‘alleged hooliganism’ of the ruling party here?
Dr Ilyas: During the Panchayat elections, TMC won in 34 seats unopposed. Why? Simply because people were barred from filing their nominations. This shows how it works here. Even now several party workers are heckled and asked to refrain from working for any other political party. The saddest part is that even the police is part of this.
eNewsroom: Mamata Banerjee has been accused of Muslim appeasement in Bengal, your take?
Dr Ilyas: I guess it’s a myth. Visit Jangipur, Malda and Murshidabad to understand that while she claims and does a lot of propaganda of doing development work for the Muslim but does little in reality. There is some unwritten pact between the TMC and BJP in Bengal. BJP and RSS presence has increased beyond imagination during her tenure.
eNewsroom: Has Umar Khalid campaigned for you here?
Dr Ilyas: Yes. He has campaigned twice for me in Jangipur.
There is a section of people, who are referring to you as the “father of tukde-tukde gang leader Umar Khalid” to dent your candidature. Do you think it will dent your image in Jangipur?
These people took three years to file the charge sheet against my son Umar Khalid and are yet to prove the same before the court. In fact, the video, on the basis of which they started to refer Umar, Kanhayia and Shehla as the leader of the tukde tukde gang was found to be doctored. So, I believe as they continue saying what they want, we will continue doing what we want, which is to help every citizen get their democratic right.
eNewsroom: You are being accused of being a voter cutter…
Dr Ilyas: One thing is clear here that BJP won’t win from Jangipur, even if we eat into the vote share of any other party. Despite the fact that Jangipur happens to be the only place where BJP has fielded a Muslim candidate, I believe she won’t win. On the contrary, the Hindu voters will also refrain from voting for her.
eNewsroom: What are your chances to win from Jangipur?
Dr Ilyas: Jangipur has voted for Congress and CPIM during the Lok Sabha election not once but seven times each. The former president of India, Pranab Mukherjee has been an MP from here twice and so has been his son Avijeet Mukherjee, who happens to be the incumbent MP from Jangipur, this election.
TMC too has not delivered much to the people of this constituency. Can you believe it, even today, maximum people over here have boiled rice with salt for their meal? So, people of Jangipur want the change that they have been promised and denied over these many years. WPI has been working at the grassroots level since 2012 and am hopeful of winning.
eNewsroom: What is the agenda of WPI for Jangipur?
Dr Ilyas: Let me clear one thing – WPI is not a political party which took birth with the sole intention of winning seats during the election. We not an addition to existing political parties in India. WPI, I repeat, is a value-based political party which is looking forward to bringing in democratic reforms and also educate the common man about their rights.
The fact that we have created a separate manifesto for Jangipur shows how serious we are about it. If we win, we will promote all kind of developmental work that this constituency has been denied of till date.