Battle between BJP, TMC in the offing in Bengal

Parties pin hopes on newbies and old horses

Battle between BJP, TMC in the offing in Bengal

Within months of a soul-sapping Parliamentary election, parties in West Bengal are gearing up for another crucial contest with two Assembly constituencies going to by-polls on September 13.

Even though the Left and the Congress are in the race for Chowringhee in central Kolkata and Basirhat South seat in North 24 Parganas district, developments of last few days have made it clear that the battle is between the Trinamool Congress and the BJP, which is emerging the prime opposition force in Bengal.

The seats have become crucial for both parties. If for the Trinamool it is a way to prove its continued supremacy despite the spectre of Saradha scam looming large, for BJP it has become imperative to gain some presence in the state Assembly after clinching two Lok Sabha seats.

Chowringhee, being in the middle of Kolkata, Trinamool would go to any lengths to keep the BJP at bay. For the BJP, the Basirhat seat is gaining importance as it could be the Petri dish to prove wrong the Trinamool’s pro-minority policies, which are eating into the non-Muslim vote bank of the ruling party.

 The Chowringhee seat was vacated after sitting Trinamool MLA Sikha Mitra joined the Congress, and the Basirhat seat was vacated following the death of sitting CPM MLA, Narayan Mukherjee.

Chowringhee has been a traditional Congress seat since 1957, with Bengal’s first chief minister B C Roy winning in 1957. Another former chief minister, Siddhartha Ray, won the seat in 1967, 1969 and 1991. TMC wrested the seat after breaking away from Congress in 1998.

Although Sikha moved to the Congress, the influence of her husband and former Congress state president Soumen Mitra — who left the Trinamool to rejoin Congress last year — is writ large. His control is said to be so absolute that even BJP state secretary, Ritesh Tiwari, contesting the by-poll, is said to have aligned with him. Trinamool has fielded Nayana Bandopadhyay, wife of senior party MP, Sudip Bandopadhyay.

The Congress has fielded Santosh Pathak, a local and close associate of state president Adhir Chowdhury. Some circles expected Sikha’s nomination and, hence, might stay away from the polls. 

At communally-charged Basirhat, the BJP has a lead of around 30,000 over Trinamool. They have fielded Samik Bhattacharya, who is said to have RSS support. Trinamool, however, has introduced Diptendu Biswas, a former national football squad captain.

The Left, which owns the seat since 1977, has cast relative newcomer Mrinal Chakraborty and Congress has fielded Ashit Majumdar, another local. But BJP is hopeful of snatching the seat.

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