People Are Not Fools: Jaideep Mazumadar On How Naxalbari Went From Mao To Modi

Anmol Jain

Jun 01, 2024, 12:44 PM | Updated 12:44 PM IST

Close to end


Dear Readers,

Today India will be voting in the seventh and last phase of Lok Sabha elections.

  • First, we'll do a short primer on the same before we get lost in the sea of exit polls.

  • And then head back to our '50 Ground Reports' team. Today, we'll look at Jaideep Mazumdar's insights from the East.

Happy reading!

- Anmol N Jain

PM Modi and others in the fray in the last phase of Lok Sabha polls

Electronic Voting Machine
Electronic Voting Machine

Polling for 57 seats in the seventh and final phase of Lok Sabha elections 2024 is underway.

The 57 Parliamentary constituencies across eight states and Union Territories include Uttar Pradesh (13), Punjab (13), West Bengal (9), Bihar (8), Odisha (6), Himachal (4), Jharkhand (3), and Chandigarh (1).

  • The remaining 42 assembly constituencies of the Odisha Legislative Assembly will also go to polls simultaneously.

Over 900 candidates are in the fray in this phase: PM Modi's seat Varanasi will also go to polls in this last phase. Other key candidates contesting in the seventh phase include:

  • Union Minister Anurag Thakur, actress Kangana Ranaut, TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee, former Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, and former Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi.

The counting of votes will take place on June 4. In the meantime, if you haven't already, check out my colleague Venu Gopal Narayanan's election forecast here.

People Are Not Fools: Jaideep Mazumadar On How Naxalbari Went From Mao To Modi

Jaideep Mazumdar in Odisha's villages
Jaideep Mazumdar in Odisha's villages

Back to our '50 Ground Reports' team!

Jaideep Mazumdar has been holding the fort for Swarajya in eastern India. He's travelled and brought back vivid accounts from Bengal, Odisha, and the north-eastern states.

When asked for one ground experience of his that he found most enriching, he comes up with twoKalahandi and Kendrapara. And then follows it up with one moreNaxalbari.

But can't really fault him for this. Such is India, its people, their stories, and our democracy — just never enough.

A Reality Check In Odisha — "For two decades, I believed Odisha was well-governed under Naveen Patnaik. But that's because I only visited Bhubaneshwar and a few urban pockets," explains Mazumdar.

  • This time, he ventured deep into rural areas, traveling through dirt tracks and cratered roads to reach remote villages.

  • What he found was shocking: misgovernance, corruption, and neglect causing immense distress, especially to the poor.

  • Even beyond Bhubaneshwar's main boulevards, conditions were horrific.

Mazumdar describes his visits to Bengal and Assam in two words — "Stark Contrast".

  • In Bengal, people yearn for change but fear expressing their opinions due to the Trinamool's reign of terror over the past 13 years.

  • In Assam, the story was different: "People, having tasted development and progress, want more of it. It’s clear that development is what matters most."

For Mazumdar, the principal takeaway from the entire exercise was the gap between urban and rural perspectives: "Urban folks like me have very little idea of what a vast majority of our countrymen suffer from and what they want."

  • "We think of toilets and piped water as conveniences" — but they're about survival.

  • "When we hear PM Modi talk about providing toilets, we think of sanitation. When he talks about piped water, we think of clean drinking water preventing diseases like dysentery and diarrhea."

  • But they also protect women from getting bitten by poisonous snakes, gored to death by wild boars, or mangled by crocodiles — "this was a revelation for me as I went around the interior areas".

Into the Red Corridor that is turning saffron: Jaideep's visit to Naxalbari, 60 years after the 'revolution' started, revealed a town transformed.

  • "The whole town was awash with saffron on the eve of Hanuman Jayanti, and people were in a celebratory mood."

  • "Naxalbari proves the maxim: you can't fool all the people all the time" — Naxalbari's residents have rejected not only Maoism but also communism.

  • They have made the 'right' turn towards progress and are avid Modi supporters now.

Dive Deeper: You can read more of Jaideep Mazumdar's fascinating and revelatory ground reports here.

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