A star-studded fight in Bhawanipore

Mamata Banerjee, Deepa Dasmunsi, Chandra Kumar Bose engaged in three-edged battle

A star-studded fight in Bhawanipore
The scene of a three-edged battle, Bhawanipore Assembly seat will be cynosure of all eyes, not just during polling on April 30 but also on May 19, the days of results.

The seat in question is the home seat of Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee.  Earlier this week, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah, while campaigning for Chandra Kumar Bose, grandnephew of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, said change in Bhawanipore will change the political scene in Bengal.

Shah urged voters to cast in BJP’s favour because figures from 2014 Lok Sabha polls give him the confidence that clinching the seat is not an impossible task. Available data reveal that of the 7 Assembly segments in South Kolkata parliamentary seat, it was at Bhawanipore that the Trinamool was trailing.

Trinamool MP Subrata Bakshi took charge of South Kolkata for 2011 by-election after Mamata exchanged the parliamentary constituency for Bhawanipore. It was here that Bakshi recorded the least number of votes in 2014 and was trailing behind BJP’s Tathagata Roy.

That, however does not seem to bother Mamata even as the Left-Congress combine and the BJP are both hopeful of breaking through.

Going by poll decorations in the area, the BJP and the coalition have barely managed to find a space to put up posters and banners. There is, however, no doubt Bhawanipore is going to witness a star-studded fight. The Left-Congress combine have fielded Deepa Dasmunsi, wife of former Union minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, against Mamta.

Deepa, popular as “boudi” (sister-in-law), is known in the area since her husband Priya Ranjan had won twice from the neighbouring seat of Rashbehari before moving to a seat in Howrah. “All included, there are 11 candidates in fray. That’s like a whole football team but only one will win the match,” she said.

“People are fed up with corruption and anarchy under the Trinamool. They want peace and democracy restored in Bengal. It will start from Bhawanipore,” she added.

The BJP, realising after the 2014 that it has a chance to win, decided to play on a long-nursed sentiment of Bengalis and fielded Bose, whose famous ancestry is still a looming presence in Bengal’s political landscape.

Bose, also fighting on the plank of the Trinamool’s poor governance, said the fight is not between personalities but ideas. “It’s a fight between BJP’s agenda of development and Trinamool’s misrule, corruption and lawlessness. I’m confident of winning, more so since BJP had a lead from this segment in 2014,” he said, adding that the Left-Congress coalition does not bother him. “They are fighting against each other in Kerala and joining hands in Bengal. People realise it’s an unholy alliance to fool voters,” he said.

Among the area’s more than 2 lakh registered voters a sizeable number are Gujaratis, Sikhs, Marwaris and Biharis, many of whom are pre-disposed to BJP and even voted for them in 2014, feel state BJP leaders.

Some Sikhs in the area, however, refute such claims. “We’ve had a soft corner for Netaji and his grand-nephew seems like a good candidate but it’s difficult to defeat Mamata-ji here. She has been a long-time MP and has done a lot of work for the area,” said one of them.

A section of local Sikhs presented Mamata with a sword in a golden sheath during Sunday’s roadshow as an expression of their commitment. Similar assertions were also made by other communities, although a section of local Biharis admitted they are not happy with the Mamata’s government.

Seemingly not concerned with numbers, Trinamool leaders claim, more than mathematics, elections are about chemistry. “In other seats, the fight is to win or lose but at Bhawanipore it’s about increasing last time’s margin. Everybody knows Didi will win,” senior leader Firhad Hakim said.

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