He had his first brush with elections in 1962, but was unsuccessful. Now after 52 years and 10 stints as a Congress MLA, Gyan Singh Sohan Pal still has the yen to fight another poll battle.
As the eldest candidate in the West Bengal Assembly elections poll at the age of 91, Pal, fondly called ‘Chacha’ by his admirers, is a candidate from IIT town Kharagpur which has returned him consecutive times.
“Each and every one in Kharagpur knows me personally and I too know them personally,” Pal told PTI.
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Kharagpur, which has a sizeable chunk of Muslim and Malayali voters, has traditionally rooted for him.
The formidable Congress candidate, who enjoys immense respect among politicians cutting across political lines, was first elected from the constituency in 1969.
This time, the former transport minister in Siddharth Shankar Ray cabinet is contesting as a Left Front-Congress alliance candidate against Trinamool Congress’s Ramaprasad Tiwari and BJP’s state president Dilip Ghosh.
Both TMC and BJP are hopeful of reversing the tide this time.
“I am a son of this district. Kharagpur has not seen much of development under Congress. We want to change it and usher a new era of development in Kharagpur,” Ghosh said.
The Trinamool Congress, on the other hand, is stressing on the ‘unprincipled’ character of the alliance between the CPI-M and the Congress to win the election.
“There is no place of emotions in politics. The people of Kharagpur will defeat the unholy alliance of Congress and CPI-M. The Congress workers who have been beaten up time and again by the CPI-M and will not vote for alliance. We will get those votes,” a senior TMC leader of the West Midnapore district said.
Baptized into politics during the British Raj, Pal is among the handful of Congressmen who had shared dias with Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.
“I am confident of wining the polls this time also as I have been with the people of Kharagpur all through my life. Kharagpur is my life, my family,” he said.
Many credit him for development initiatives in Kharagpur like setting up of a general hospital and starting various bus routes to Kolkata.
Last time when there was an alliance between the TMC and the Congress, Pal had polled more than 55% of the votes. His nearest CPI-M rival had polled around 31%.