Bishnu Pada Ray:
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By Zubair Ahmed
It was the story of meteoric rise for Bishnu Pada Ray since 1991 when he, almost single-handed, sowed the seeds of BJP in the Islands and nurtured it. From a mere 4% plus votes in 1991, he kept on increasing his tally ultimately defeating the invincible Manoranjan Bhakta in 1999, and turning the table once again in 2009 defeating the young Turk, Kuldeep Rai Sharma.
In fact, in 1999, it was Kuldeep Rai Sharma's ANC, which gave him his first taste of victory and Manoranjan Bhakta, who offered on a platter another victory in 2009. Both helped him win through surreptitious ways, and in 2014, he has become a formidable force, giving nightmares to both of them.
He had been a difficult person, who could never manage power. His best supporters agree that he could not manage power in spite of all his best intentions. He turned into a crusader out to change the world in one term. In the process he ended up creating an army of opponents both outside and inside the Administration.
His defeat in 2004 was followed by extreme humiliation as he became a pariah in the very organisation he had created himself. All his protégés had turned hostile to him. He was not seen around BJP Bhavan for years together.
Under the circumstances, it was not less than a miracle that he managed the BJP nomination again in 2009 and finally came out victorious against Congress' Kuldeep Rai Sharma.
A resident of Ashoke Nagar in 24 Parganas, West Bengal, Bishnu Pada Ray came to Andamans in search of a job some time in early seventies. He worked in various capacities including as an LIC agent, in the erstwhile WIMCO Ltd and married a local lass in 1976.
In his first term as MP, he manifested all traits of an angry middle-aged man. Impetuous, hot headed and temperamental, he couldn't stand criticism or opposition even though he believed in wider consultation with various shades of opinions. Tact, diplomacy and discretion were not his high points.
But, time is the best teacher, and the second term saw a sea change in Bishnu. Despite his short honeymoon with Trinamul Congress, he kept connected with the electorate and the ground realities. Rather than people approaching him, he reached them and the bond that he could build in the last five years has become an asset for him.
From a middle aged angry man without a party behind him, he is now a toned down sensible sitting Member of Parliament with a party backing him up.
However, there are cracks and fissures, manifesting its ugly head everywhere, but Bishnu seems confident that it won’t reflect in the elections. It would have to be seen how much he can convert the goodwill that he claims to have developed over the years into votes.
His strained relationship with the State President, Vishal Jolly did push the party backwards, but Bishnu maintained his demeanor, that finally won him secure the seat, despite all misadventures.
"Vishal Jolly is my President and I am under him," he says trying to put all faith in the party and win back the space, that once he avoided.
More than outside, Bishnu might be worried how to keep the folks inside his party together and sail through the rough weather. His recent hobnobbing with the bureaucracy might also give him an edge over others, where he has been accommodated to his content.
Vishal Jolly, the President of his party seems to be in a dilemma, whether to go out and extend support to his candidate openly after all the hullaballoo about the seat. But, it’s for sure that the decision he takes in the present will decide his future political career. Or, the cost he will have to pay in case NDA comes to power will be inconceivable.
The day, Bishnu Pada Ray’s name was announced as the party candidate, it did send shivers in the opponent camp and it’s a fact everybody accepts, including Congressmen. Or, the grapevine was that it would be a cakewalk for Kuldeep Rai Sharma, if Vishal was the candidate. The scene has changed and fight ahead seems to be tough.
The 2014 election is a different ball game altogether. The major fight is between a sitting MP, who has not damaged his prospects and kept himself alive throughout the five years and Kuldeep Rai Sharma, who has the backing of one of the oldest parties who needs a term to prove his worth, and has been quite successful in activating the cooperative movement to his advantage.