Mamata's pet Lok Sabha seat goes to polls

Banerjee resigned from the seat after becoming a lawmaker on winning the assembly by-election from Bhowanipore Sep 28.

In the 2009 parliamentary election, Trinamool Congress supremo Banerjee had registered her sixth consecutive victory from Kolkata South, trouncing her nearest rival
Rabin Deb of Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) by 219,571 votes.

Then a feisty Congress leader, she shifted to Kolkata South in 1991 after losing from Jadavpur in 1989. She registered wins with varying but comfortable margins in 1991 and 1996, two years before forming the Trinamool. As a Trinamool candidate, Banerjee has won in 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2009.

State Trinamool president and Minister Subrata Bakshi, who quit as a legislator from Bhowanipore to pave the way for his leader’s maiden entry into the assembly, has been rewarded by Banerjee with the party ticket in this bypoll.

On the other hand, the CPI-M has nominated a young turk - the party’s student wing Students Federation of India general secretary Ritabrata Banerjee.

There are three other independents in fray.

Bakshi is known as a politician with a difference in the Trinamool. Despite being in a party where small and big leaders make a beeline for Banerjee’s attention and are eager to being seen alongside 'Didi' to prove their relevance in the set-up, Bakshi is known for his aloofness.

A low profile man, he is seldom seen trying to catch the spotlight, or rushing to Banerjee’s side to be in the media glare. But at the same time, he has been steadfastly loyal to his leader since her Congress days.

And Banerjee, for her part, depends and trusts Bakshi, who got the plum portfolios of transport and public works department in her cabinet.

Asked how he felt at being given the ticket from Banerjee’s seat, Bakshi said: “One of us had to fight. I have been chosen. That’s all. But where is the opposition?”

Educated and articulate, CPI-M’s Ritabrata is known for his speaking prowess. He is a familiar face in local news channels, taking part in debates and panel discussions, forcefully putting forth his party’s stand on all issues, using arguments and statistics.

However, Kolkata South could prove to be a tough testing ground for the baby-faced Marxist, as it is the seat the Trinamool considers its safest. Banerjee had retained the seat even in 2004 - when all her other candidates bit the dust.

But Ritabrata seems optimistic. “During the six months in power, the Trinamool government has not done anything. Where is the promised development? I have toured the length and breadth of the constituency. People are disillusioned,” he said.

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