BJP's Joy Banerjee gives Satabdi a run for her money in Birbhum

BJP's Joy Banerjee gives Satabdi a run for her money in Birbhum

BJP's Joy Banerjee gives Satabdi a run for her money in Birbhum

The parliamentary constituency of Birbhum, which gives its name to the district, holds special significance in the Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal because it was the Assembly segment of Nalhati within Birbhum that laid the foundation for the BJP’s surreptitious rise in Bengal. 

It was during an Assembly by-poll in 2012 that the BJP, which had a meagre four per cent vote share across the state, raised its share silently to around 12 per cent.

The Birbhum constituency, which had been a Left stronghold since 1971, turned towards the Trinamool Congress in 2009, sending to the Parliament Trinamool’s Satabdi Roy with a margin of around 61,000 votes. The sitting MP till then, Dr Ram Chandra Dome of CPM, was shifted to the neighbouring Bolpur constituency in 2009, after former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee vacated it. Although Dome won the Bolpur seat, the Left lost Birbhum to the Trinamool.

According to analysts, Satabdi could lose her seat to Joy Banerjee of the BJP given the BJP wave the constituency is apparently riding on. Though she won it last time by 61,000 votes, the BJP had come third in 2009 and could better its lot this time around, they say. Many residents in the area believe that the current BJP candidate, Joy Banerjee, Satabdi’s colleague from the world of Bengali cinema, has the right balance of glamour and dedication.

Although Joy had not appeared in a film in some years, he has dabbled in jatra, the travelling theatre popular in rural Bengal and has somewhat of a fan following among the rural populace. Joy has also drawn attention because he refuses to make personal attacks against Satabdi and only points out what he thinks are the failed promises of the Mamata Banerjee government. Satabdi, on the other hand, is said to have prevented her supporters from using the word ‘joy’ too much even though it is most difficult during election time, given that the word in Bengali stands for ‘victory’.

If the locals in the constituency placed bets, it will be not only on who wins but also on who comes second. While the contest till a few days ago was a straight one between Satabdi and the CPM’s Qamre Ilahi, the CPM candidate has been pushed to the backseat with Banerjee emerging as a bigger headache for the sitting MP. Not only did Joy jump into campaign with enthusiasm soon after his name was announced, the response he is evoking has rung alarm bells within the Trinamool.

“I have come here to contest an election. There is nothing personal. I will not comment on what my opponent has said. She is a good friend of mine,” Banerjee told reporters during a road show at Suri. 

While Joy is revelling in the newfound interest of the people, Satabdi is having to battle factionalism within her party and not just rivals.