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Lok Sabha Elections 2024 |TMC's stronghold South Bengal faces 'old vs new' battle amid national spotlight on Sandeshkhali

The seventh and final phase of the Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal will cover Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jayanagar, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Kolkata Dakshin, and Kolkata Uttar, where the TMC secured victories in the 2019 elections.
Last Updated : 31 May 2024, 07:40 IST
Last Updated : 31 May 2024, 07:40 IST

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Kolkata: As south Bengal, a traditional TMC stronghold, heads to the polls on Saturday, the region faces a significant electoral battle testing the party's dominance amid an 'old versus new' power struggle, with the national spotlight on Sandeshkhali in Basirhat due to allegations of atrocities on women and land grabs.

The seventh and final phase of the Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal will cover Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jayanagar, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Kolkata Dakshin, and Kolkata Uttar, where the TMC secured victories in the 2019 elections.

The results in the nine constituencies will be a key for the TMC's dominance in the region, seeking to maintain its grip amidst challenges from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left-Congress alliance.

A total of 1.63 crore voters - 83.19 lakh men, 80.20 lakh women, and 538 belonging to the third gender - are eligible to exercise their franchise in 17,470 polling stations on June 1.

Of the 124 contestants in the seventh phase of polling, Kolkata Dakshin has the highest number of 17 candidates, followed by Jadavpur (16), and 15 each in Basirhat and Kolkata Uttar parliamentary seats.

From the Dum Dum Lok Sabha seat, 14 candidates are contesting, while there are 12 nominees each in Barasat, Diamond Harbour, and Mathurapur (SC) seats, and in Jaynagar (SC) there are 11 contestants.

Several high-stakes battles are set to unfold in this phase.

Notably, TMC heavyweight Abhishek Banerjee, considered the party's de facto number two, is contesting from Diamond Harbour. Banerjee's performance in this seat, which the TMC touts as a 'model constituency', will be closely watched as the opposition attempts to paint it as a 'laboratory of violence'.

The two-time MP faces CPI (M)'s Pratikur Rahaman and BJP's Abhijit Das in a three-way contest.

The minority-dominated Basirhat Lok Sabha seat, and specifically the Sandeshkhali segment, is a microcosm of the broader electoral battle as it garnered national attention due to allegations of atrocities on women and land grabs by local TMC leaders.

The BJP has capitalised on these issues by nominating Rekha Patra, a prominent local protestor, against TMC veteran Haji Nurul Islam.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's personal call to Patra before her campaign has added momentum to her candidacy. The CPI (M) has fielded former MLA Nirapada Sardar, making this a three-cornered contest.

In Kolkata North, seasoned parliamentarian and three-term TMC MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay faces a tough challenge from Tapas Roy, a four-time TMC MLA who switched allegiance to the BJP.

This contest epitomises the internal struggle within the TMC, with Bandyopadhyay representing the old guard and Roy symbolising the new wave of leaders. The Left-Congress nominee Pradip Bhattacharya is also in the fray.

Similarly in the Dum Dum Lok Sabha seat, sharp changes in the electoral landscape as compared to five years ago may bolster incumbent TMC MP Saugata Roy's chances against a tougher BJP challenge.

With CPI(M) fielding central committee member Sujan Chakraborty, known in state politics, a triangular contest emerges, potentially benefiting Roy, while BJP's candidate Shilbhadra Dutta, a former Trinamool MLA, further intensifies the competition.

In Kolkata Dakshin, TMC veteran Mala Roy is up against BJP's former union minister Debasree Chaudhuri, while the TMC has fielded Saayoni Ghosh, an actor and president of the party's youth wing, in Jadavpur. Ghosh faces stiff competition from CPI(M)'s Srijan Bhattacharya and BJP's Anirban Ganguly.

The Jadavpur seat is historically significant for the TMC, as it was from here that a young Mamata Banerjee first made her mark by defeating CPI (M) veteran Somnath Chatterjee in 1984.

The south Bengal region has traditionally been a TMC fortress, with the party winning 30 out of 31 seats in South 24 Parganas, 29 out of 33 in North 24 Parganas and all 16 seats in Kolkata in the 2021 assembly elections.

The BJP's campaign has focused on issues of corruption, women's safety, and resistance to political muscle-flexing, which they believe resonate strongly in constituencies like Basirhat.

The TMC, on the other hand, is banking on its developmental work and the charisma of its leaders to retain its dominance.

The Left-Congress combine, armed with veteran candidates such as Sujan Chakraborty and first-timers like Srijan Bhattacharya, aims at breaking the TMC-BJP binary and reclaiming its relevance in Bengal politics.

For this phase of polling, the Election Commission has decided to deploy 960 companies of central forces to ensure security and prevent any untoward incidents.

The polling is scheduled to start at 7 am and continue till 6 pm on Saturday.

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Published 31 May 2024, 07:40 IST

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