All eyes will be on West Bengal’s Jangalmahal region when the five Lok Sabha seats in the former Left Front bastions of West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura districts go to the polls on Wednesday. The other attraction will be the industrial belt of Asansol in Burdwan district.
None of the six seats going to the polls has a single incumbent from the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC). Of the six MPs, four belong to the CPM and one each to the CPI and Forward Bloc.
However, the wave of ‘change’ that swept these areas in the 2011 assembly elections had virtually crushed the CPM’s organisation and famed election machinery after Mamata Banerjee became chief minister.
This time, the TMC appears to be the favourite in most of the seats, except Asansol.
Singer Babul Supriyo, who is in the fray in Asansol on a BJP ticket, seems to be riding the Modi wave. While his campaigns attracted the attention of local residents, a big indicator came on Sunday when an unprecedented and rapturous crowd thronged Narendra Modi’s rally there. In stark contrast, the two rallies of Mamata Banerjee on April 30 and party Rajya Sabha members, Mukul Roy and Mithun Chakravarty on May 5 drew thin crowds.
Supriyo is pitted against former CPM minister and sitting MP Bansa Gopal Chowdhury and Dola Sen, chief of the Trinamool’s trade union wing.
Of the five other seats, Jhargram and Bankura are expected to draw special attention.
Though no heavyweight is in the fray in Jhargram, this seat is crucial because all of it comprises areas such as Lalgarh, Salboni, Jhargram, Jamboni and Belpahari that were hotbeds of Maoist activity from 2008-2011 and witnessed more than 400 deaths and wanton violence.
In 2009, at the height of the Lalgarh movement of locals against state repression by the ruling CPM, about 75,000 voters boycotted the Lok Sabha elections.
In 2011, however, the TMC wrested six of the seven assembly constituencies within the Jhargram Lok Sabha seat and following Maoist leader Kishanji’s death in November 2011, peace prevails in these once-tumultuous areas.