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26 Apr 2018

Now showing on election stage: Amar Akbar Anthony replay

(From left) Prasanta Dhanwar, Subhajit Biswas and Jahir Mian at the tea stall in Kumargram where they meet each morning. Picture by Anirban Choudhury
Anirban Choudhury, TT, Apr 26, 2018, Alipurduar: Panchayat poll rivals may look like the warriors from Avengers in much of Bengal but three childhood friends in Alipurduar's Kumargram are stirring a potboiler with ingredients of Amar Akbar Anthony.

Subhajit Biswas, Jahir Mian and Prasanta Dhanwar are vying for the same panchayat seat as candidates of Trinamul, Congress and the BJP.

The friends from different faiths and backgrounds have set an example of peace, amity and brotherhood in the battle for the seat under the Rydak gram panchayat.

Residents fondly call them Amar, Akbar and Anthony - played by Vinod Khanna Rishi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan respectively in the eponymous 1977 hit.

Subhajit, who runs a grocery shop and is a forest department casual worker, is the Trinamul candidate. Jahir, a lottery-ticket seller, is the Congress nominee. Prasanta, currently unemployed and living with his mother who works in a tea garden, is the BJP's man for the seat in the Kartick Chowpathi area. They are aged between 25 and 28.

For Prasanta, a Christian, it doesn't matter that they represent different parties. "There is no competitive feeling among us. We campaign separately but do not use harsh words for the other contestants. It is obvious that only one of us will win but that won't affect our friendship," Prasanta said.

Unlike other contestants who plunge into the campaign right away every morning, the three friends first meet at a tea stall. "It is almost a routine for us, particularly these days, to have tea and talk. We spend a couple of hours, read newspapers and then head to work or campaign," said Subhajit.

Jahir said the three had already decided that the two among them who lose would help the winner meet his responsibilities as a panchayat member. "There is no point bad-mouthing each other or taking an aggressive stand. We are contesting the elections but our friendship will endure," Jahir said.

It isn't a surprise, therefore, that the Kartick Chowpathi area hasn't seen even a minor incident of violence this election season, unlike the other parts of the state rocked by clashes during nominations.

In 2013, a candidate of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha had won the Kartick Chowpathi seat. The region is home to hundreds of tribal tea workers who trace their roots to Jharkhand.

"But he (the JMM winner) did nothing. That's one of the reasons why we decided to contest. We need drinking water. The roads need to be improved. If any one of us wins this time, it will help us speed up development," said Prasanta.

Sujit Sha, who runs the tea stall, and several others expressed hope that "Amar or Akbar or Anthony" will win in a contest that also features an Independent. The seat has 1,350 voters.

"They are known by the nicknames (Amar Akbar Anthony) as they are always together. People often peep into my shop to see if the three are here. It is rare to see candidates of three parties bonding," Sha said.

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