Kolkata: Saira Shah Halim is a well-known personality in Kolkata since she participates in different national media panels, she is an educator, columnist and social activist. Her husband Dr Fuad Halim is also known as people’s doctor in the city and her father-in-law Hashim Abdul Halim has been the longest-serving speaker of the Bengal assembly. Saira’s father Zamiruddin Shah is a former vice chief of Army Staff and her uncle is veteran actor Nasiruddin Shah. Now Saira, a mother of two, has been fielded as a Communist Party of India (Marxist) candidate for the Ballygunge bypoll. Last year, Dr Fuad Halim had contested for the seat on CPM’s symbol. The Ballygunge bypoll has become interesting as the ruling Trinamool Congress has fielded former BJP minister and Bollywood singer Babul Supriyo. Supriyo has been accused of riots in Asansol in 2018. Saira talks at length to eNewsroom India, excerpts below.
eNewsroom: You come from a political family, still being an individual, there is a question, why did you choose to enter into politics?
Saira Shah Halim: We were about to leave Kolkata for a vacation when I got a call from the CPM office that they wanted to field me from Ballygunge. They said that they want somebody who is above the party face. As I have been into social work for a long time and have seen politics closely, I accepted the offer. Also, Kolkata is a city of different cultures and we are proud of it. So I want to do something more to save this city from the people who are known for destroying the social fabric. I am here to end the politics of hatred.
eNewsroom: You are fighting an election for the first time. But CPM is not having the phase it used to 20 years back. And recently its Bengal unit has seen an overall change in organizational structure, how are your party going to help you in this fight?
Saira Shah Halim: Party is fully behind me and giving me all its support. Comrades are working from morning to evening. Earlier, the situations were different, when people voted to stop BJP from coming to power. Now BJP’s threat is out of mind among the voters.
And people want to vote for somebody who can move along with every community, who believes in equality and wants to vote for educated people.
eNewsroom: Subrata Mukherjee, the former minister, after whose demise Ballygunge bypoll is taking place has been close to CM Mamata Banerjee and served long as an MLA, still what do you think three things needed to be done in the constituency?
Saira Shah Halim: It is not easy to fill up Subrata Mukherjee’s shoes. Still, there is some work needed to be done like the empowerment of women. There should be better sanitation work. The water and electricity distribution should be at par with metro cities. But there is one more issue that needs immediate attention is the smooth vaccination of school-going students. And their transition to settle in the school environment post-Covid lockdowns. So actually, a lot is needed to be done in the Ballygunge constituency.
Watch the full interview:
eNewsroom: How will you challenge Babul Supriyo, who has been MP and minister, and candidate of the ruling party, TMC?
Saira Shah Halim: I am attending rallies and doing door-to-door campaigns. While meeting people, I felt that people know that Babul Supriyo is a riot accused and opportunist too. He is being considered a turncoat and who knows he can again go back to BJP from where he has come.
eNewsroom: You are getting support on social media, but what are you doing to connect with the masses, common voters?
Saira Shah Halim: Yes, people are supporting us on social media and some campaigns are also running. I am requesting such people who are expressing support to us through social media and if they are our constituency voters to surely turn up to vote on the polling day. We are also doing rigorous door-to-door campaigns and will reach out to maximum people.
eNewsroom: If wins, what three things will you do for the Ballygunge constituency?
Saira Shah Halim: As I said earlier, my priority would be to do more work for communal harmony, bring community closure. Kolkata is a city where people lived peacefully, its culture remains to respect each other’s practices and rituals, it should not get disturbed. There is also high inflation because of the anti-people policies of the BJP, for which we will hit the streets regularly. The issue of unemployment is also affecting a large number of youth. We will raise this issue so that the youth of Ballygunge can get employment.
eNewsroom: Will Nasiruddin Shah campaign for you?
Saira Shah Halim: Yes, he might do. He had sent a video message when Fuad had contested. He was happy when heard that I am contesting. Right now uncle is in Gujarat shooting for a movie and when gets time, he can campaign here too.