WB polls: TMC in a spot in Maldaha Uttar seat

TMC candidate Mausam Noor. DH photo

Sitting in the Congress office at the English Bazar area of Maldaha Uttar (North) Lok Sabha constituency on Wednesday night, a senior district Congress leader said that TMC’s tactics of engineering defection in other parties would backfire in the seat.

Speaking under the condition of anonymity, he said that sitting Congress MP Mausam Noor’s decision to join TMC has “isolated” her in the constituency. 

“The ‘traitor’ tag used by Rahul Gandhi at a recent rally against Noor seems to have been etched into the voters’ minds and we will ensure that it remains so,” he told DH. Congress’ strategy has become evident as slogans such as “no votes to the traitor” were raised at several of its election rallies.

Congress candidate Isha Khan Chowdhry is seeking to capitalise on Noor’s “traitor” tag and his party’s traditional vote base in the constituency. Unlike Noor, Chowdhury does not have to deal with the defection issue. 

“Rest assured we will not leave any ground to Noor,” said Chowdhury.

However, Noor defended her decision to join the TMC by arguing that it was necessary to stop BJP from getting a foothold in MaldahaUttar. “I am not a traitor. I joined TMC as it is the only force in Bengal which can keep the BJP at bay,” she said.

The Maldaha Uttar seat, which will go to polls on April 23, has always been tough for TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee. The ruling party in West Bengal, which failed to wrest the seat from Congress in 2014, has now sought to breach the Congress bastion by fielding the sitting Congress MP.  Several factors have made it difficult for Noor to emerge victorious.

Since the last Panchayat elections in May, the BJP has made considerable inroads in the constituency. Despite allegations of rigging by TMC, the saffron party won six zilla parishad seats in Malda district. The division of votes between TMC, Congress and CPM may end up benefiting the BJP by splitting the Muslim votes in the seat. Maldaha Uttar has about nearly 50% Muslim population and an equal number of Hindu residents.

A large section of local TMC leaders and workers are also not happy with the party leadership’s decision to field Noor. “Most of the TMC workers in Malda district have left Congress, revolting against the authority of late Congress patriarch and former Rail Minister Gani Khan Chowdhury’s family and now the party leadership has imposed a candidate on them (Noor) who is from the same family,” a senior TMC leader said.

Further, in the 2016 Assembly elections, the TMC was not been able to win any of the seven Assembly segments under Maldaha Uttar Lok Sabha constituency.  BJP, on the other hand, is also struggling to deal with internal discontent against the leadership’s decision to field sitting CPM MLA Khagen Murmu. 

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