In 2009, Dr Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar came to power on a Trinamool Congress ticket from the Barasat Lok Sabha constituency near Kolkata. Since then the 60-year-old physician has retained her MP seat, winning by a margin of 1,73,141 votes in the 2014 General Elections. The incumbent MP is in the poll fray again from Barasat.
Parliamentary constituency No. 17, Barasat, saw a change in its constituent assembly segments in the 2009 elections, following the orders of the Delimitation Commission; as per these orders, the satellite township of New Town, which has been developed as a special urban IT and corporate hub after Salt Lake Sector V in Kolkata, was included as part of the Rajarhat New Town assembly segment within the Barasat Lok Sabha constituency.
On Sunday, May 12th, it was in the midst of a super busy campaign trail here, that we were able to catch up with the sitting MP for a few minutes. A doctor by profession, Kakoli hails from a family that boasts of political associations for the past three generations; she herself has been in politics since she was a student.
In a very brief chat, she answered our questions on employment, safety and other key issues of the constituency. Excerpts:
Kolkata’s satellite township New Town falls under the Barasat constituency, from where you are fighting this election. What do you think are the core issues of the people in this IT and corporate hub of Kolkata?
There are no core issues. Everywhere, human requirements are the same. Every citizen has only one vote and equal rights. Rights and responsibilities go together. So, there are no separate issues to talk of here.
In most coverage of rallies and election meets, we only hear of political mud-slinging. But what about real issues? For example, climate change. Air pollution is a major pan-India concern and Kolkata’s air quality index has taken a nosedive, giving competition to Delhi’s foul air. As the people’s representative in Parliament, what would be your approach to this issue?
See, you can’t talk about climate and only speak about air pollution. Climate includes air, water, trees, afforestation and everything. I have worked on it for many, many years and have spoken about it all through the world. I have also visited The Renewables Academy AG (RENAC) in Berlin, Germany. I think pollution is one of our concerns and everybody in the country and the world should be together in fighting pollution. Nothing can be done by one person alone. It is everybody’s concern in the world.
As a woman, what is your evaluation of the safety issues for women in your constituency? How safe do you feel as a woman in today’s Bengal?
The safety situation in my constituency is excellent. Not only do I feel safe, but every woman feels safe here. At 11 pm or midnight women move about freely, they come from work, they go to work for night shifts, without any security concern. This is because I have put CCTVs everywhere and the entire area has electrification. So, it is absolutely safe.
Do you think there is room for improvement when it comes to general concerns of women across metro cities? Are policy interventions needed to make cities safer for women?
Not in my constituency. Bengal is 100 per cent safe.
You are pitted against mostly male candidates like Subrata Dutta of Congress, Mrinal Kanti Debnath of BJP and Haripada Biswas of the Forward Bloc. Are there any particular challenges of being a woman candidate?
Politics is a battle of equality. All through my life, in the last two elections that I have fought and won, it has always been against men. It is a general seat. I never contested from reserved seats. In politics everything is equal. Women may be slightly physically weaker than men, but if a strong woman wants to fight, then her mental capability will take her forward.
New Town is seen as a youth hub and it was in fact designed to meet the needs/aspirations of young IT and corporate employees taking up jobs here. How do you see employment creation so far? What kind of policy tweak would you suggest to create more jobs in the city, and more diverse jobs (not just IT)?
The IT sector is thriving very well with the parks, the beautification and free wi-fi zones. We have solar-driven buses now. Eco park has come up so that people can have some open space; it is a great place for relaxation and recreation; people can have their meals and break-time snacks because there are restaurants and coffee shops.
A new silicon hub is coming up, our honourable CM (Mamata Banerjee) is calling it the Silicon Hub. So, more jobs are going to be created.
However, diversification of jobs needs more infrastructure development, which was started only in the last seven years, after she (Mamata Banerjee) took over. 34 years of Left misrule didn’t see any infrastructure coming up in the state.
I am sure more industries are going to be built here and more people are going to get jobs. Look at the girls driving cars and cabs, women running food shops, so everything positive is happening!