Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra may just become the face of the united opposition in Behala East constituency where he is the independent candidate against Kolkata mayor and Mamata Banerjee confidante, Sovan Chatterjee.
While the Congress and the Left won’t field anybody and support Mahapatra, BJP sources too indicated on Friday that they might not nominate anybody for this seat that suddenly promises a very interesting fight. It is very rare in Bengal for key opposition parties to rally behind one candidate.
The chemistry professor is a famous victim of human rights violation during Mamata’s regime. He is contesting under the banner of Akranto Amra, a platform set up in 2014 by those feeling persecuted by the government and the ruling party in Bengal.
His main rival is Kolkata mayor and incumbent, Sovan Chatterjee, who features prominently in the Narada sting video for accepting Rs 5 lakh in cash from a fictitious company.
Simple arithmetic is a cause for worry for the mayor. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the Trinamool candidate bagged 40.74% of the votes in Behala East that is part of South Kolkata parliamentary constituency. That was quite an erosion from the 61% vote share Chatterjee secured in the 2011 Assembly polls. But in 2011, the Congress and the Trinamool were in alliance and the vote share included votes of Congress supporters.
In April 2012, Mahapatra and his septuagenarian neighbour Subrata Sengupta were arrested for forwarding a spoof on email that featured chief minister Mamata Banerjee and two former railway ministers — Mukul Roy and Dinesh Trivedi. A national outcry followed the police high-handedness but the government stuck to its stand.
Political circles are unanimous that if the debutante can pull off a victory, it will be a personal embarrassment for Mamata who publicly criticised Mahapatra on several occasions and refused to pay the compensation that courts ruled for Mahapatra and Sengupta. The government has appealed to a division bench of Calcutta High Court against the 2015 court order asking it to pay Rs 1.5 lakh as compensation to Mahapatra and Sengupta.
“Mahapatra has taken up a symbolic fight against Trinamool’s atrocities,” a BJP leader said. “I’ve no problem if the BJP supports me. I’ve a problem with Trinamool only,” Mahapatra said.