Ghatal Lok Sabha

Kolkata, April 18, 2024 — The scenic but flood-ravaged Ghatal Lok Sabha constituency, approximately 120 km from Kolkata, is bracing for an extraordinary electoral showdown between two cinematic luminaries, as residents grapple with perennial waterlogging issues that have beset the region for decades.

This year’s election features a high-stakes battle between the incumbent Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Dev, a beloved figure in Bengali cinema known off-screen as Deepak Adhikary, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nominee Hiranmoy Chattopadhyay, also a film star and currently serving as the MLA of Kharagpur. Both candidates are leveraging their star appeal to engage voters in a constituency that has seen its fair share of neglect.

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The Ghatal sub-division, located in the Purba Medinipur district, is notorious for its annual flooding, exacerbated by its position in the lower reaches of the Chota Nagpur plateau’s catchment area along the Shilabati river. Despite recurring promises from successive political figures, the flood issue remains largely unaddressed, leading many locals to rely on personal boats for transportation during prolonged inundation periods, which can last for months after the monsoon season.

“I grew up seeing Ghatal under water,” said Niranjan Hazra, a local from Argora, expressing a common sentiment among the electorate. “Nothing changed in the last 28 years. I do not think it will ever change.”

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Dev, seeking re-election, remains optimistic about his initiatives, saying, “I wish to make the Ghatal model successful,” despite his candid admission of needing a “rebirth” to fulfill unmet goals from his previous terms. This comment was swiftly criticized by his opponent, Hiran, who accused Dev of failing to utilize central funds effectively, alleging corruption and mismanagement in the constituency.

In contrast, Hiran promises to focus on enhancing railway services and transforming Ghatal into a ‘Gold hub’, alongside implementing the long-pending ‘Ghatal Master Plan’ aimed at mitigating the flood problem. This master plan, which involves a substantial investment of Rs 1,250 crore as recently announced by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, promises relief for over 17 lakh affected residents without relying on central government aid.

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Ghatal, with its five municipalities and five community development blocks, suffers annually from flooding that affects extensive areas and disrupts lives. Historical interventions, such as the ‘Ghatal Master Plan’ approved in 1979 by the then Left Front government, have yet to be actualized, leaving the region in a state of hopeful anticipation as another election looms.

Polling for the Ghatal Lok Sabha seat is scheduled for May 25, in what promises to be a closely watched contest, not only for the star power involved but also for the pressing developmental issues at stake.

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