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Focus on development: Why the mood is upbeat in BJP MP Babul Supriyo's constituency, Asansol

Supriyo says he will stay focussed on his constituency. "Even the public toilets that are being set up in Asansol have been designed by me," he says.

, ET Bureau|
Apr 05, 2015, 05.30 AM IST
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Supriyo says he will stay focussed on his constituency. "Even the public toilets that are being set up in Asansol have been designed by me," he says.
Supriyo says he will stay focussed on his constituency. "Even the public toilets that are being set up in Asansol have been designed by me," he says.
As NH 2, also known as the Kolkata-Delhi Road, nears Asansol, the ride turns bumpy. Construction work is in progress and the inevitable traffic jam takes shape. But people here see a silver lining. The section of one of India’s oldest arterial roads will soon be converted into a swank six-lane highway. The mood is actually upbeat and in sharp contrast to the gloom 150 km behind on the same highway at Singur, where the abandoned Tata Motors’ Nano plant resembles a ghost town.

Sandip Samanta, who runs a manufacturing business in Asansol, says when people in the constituency voted for Babul Supriyo last year they were essentially voting for change and hoping for more development. "Over the years, during the Left Front government, we suffered because of lack of policy implementation with files taking years to be cleared," says Samanta, a former president of the Asansol Merchants Chambers of Commerce.

He said Supriyo, a singer (his was the only triumph for BJP in the Bengal plains), won because he was seen as a breath of fresh air, especially among young and cosmopolitan voters.

"His popularity is not only because he is a celebrity, but also because he is often seen in the constituency. He has been engaged in projects such as building flyovers, upgrade of the railway station, installation of garbage bins and toilets in girls’ schools," adds Samanta. Nevertheless, people now expect bigger deeds from Supriyo.
Focus on development: Why the mood is upbeat in BJP MP Babul Supriyo's constituency, Asansol
The MP was made minister of state for urban development in the second round of expansion of the Modi Cabinet last November —the first time that Asansol has a central minister. "We hope that he will use his visibility and influence to help in expediting big projects such as the six-laning of NH 2 and revival of ailing PSUs in the region such as Hindustan Cables," says Samanta.

Supriyo,44, is aware of the burden of expectations. "If you want to get a firsthand impression of what is happening in my constituency do visit between April 13 and 16 when I will be around. Besides inaugurating new projects and addressing meetings, I also have music concerts scheduled, because that’s my first love and helps me reach out to people," Supriyo told ET Magazine. He credits his victory — despite being a political greenhorn who took on the formidable Trinamool Congress candidate Dola Sen, who was handpicked by chief minister Mamata Banerjee — to his passion for getting things done.

Supriyo says he will stay focussed on his constituency. "Even the public toilets that are being set up in Asansol have been designed by me," he says. Since becoming minister, he says he has pursued the development of Sidha Bari under the Adarsh Gram Yojana, is building a railway overbridge/flyover at Hirapur-Kumarpur and is about to sanction Rs 5 crore to build roads under the MP Local Area Development Fund.

Asansol, home to PSUs such as SAIL (IISCO steel plant), Eastern Coalfields and Chittaranjan Locomotive Works, has over 70,000 industrial workers. Many having migrated from the neighbouring states of Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. It is more an urban and cosmopolitan hub than most of the other West Bengal constituencies.

"Like many parts of India, the people in Asansol too had voted for change when they voted for Babul Supriyo. PM Narendra Modi had campaigned in this constituency and used the slogan Parliament mein Babul chahiye, which helped the political novice in a big way. And now, the expectations of a good economic policy direction from the Modi government continues," says BS Jayant, who runs a factory that services diesel engines (he hails from Karnataka and moved to Asansol three decades ago).

Amalendu Chattopadhyay, a BJP veteran, believes that besides capturing the imagination of young voters in Asansol, people of different communities who form large numbers in the constituency, too supported Supriyo and the BJP in large numbers. "He may be new to politics but he is known as a singer and along with the party he ran a very mature campaign. The population in Asansol is a mix of people of many states in India who support BJP," Chattopadhyay said.

Rashmi Prasad, a teacher in a government run primary school in Asansol, is not a Bengali speaker but has been born and brought up in the constituency. "I connect with Supriyo because despite being a popular singer and a celebrity, he is down to earth and has now become one of us.

He is very charismatic and many of my young students would even like to believe that he’ll become the prime minister one day," she says.

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