The battle for phase three on Wednesday will be more than an electoral process to decide the fate of 10 ministers and their chief minister.
The day will also not be about heavyweights battling it out for respectable wins. But, it will be a complex electoral calculation that will carve the political future of Bengal, to be more precise, decide who will form the government. For Trinamool Congress, at the same time, it will be the acid test to prove supremacy in its race towards Writers’ Buildings.
Seventy five seats, spread over three districts – North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas and Kolkata – will be the highest number to go to polls on a single day of the six day election bout. The three zones, particularly the south and north 24 parganas, have added political significance. These are the two places where Trinamool Congress reaped maximum electoral benefits in the post Singur-Nandigram episode.
The erosion of the Left vote bank was huge and the TMC even managed to wrest the Zilla Parishad in South 24 Parganas. If North 24 Parganas is a unique mixture of heterogeneous electorate – peasants, factory workers, urban middle class and the rich – much of Left Front’s electoral fortunes will be dependant on its score sheet in the 33 seat in this district.
The day will also be marked as the encounter day of the political heavyweights in Bengal – CPI(M)’s Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Asim Dasgupta, Gautam Deb and TMC’s Partha Chatterjee, Sovan Chatterjee and Subrata Mukherjee. If its battle royal at Jadavpur where the Chief Minister will take on his former Chief Secretary Manish Gupta of TMC, Dum Dum is another hotspot where Housing Minister Gautam Deb, the latest star campaigner of the CPI(M) has to fight it out with the political green horn, yet a formidable opponent, theatre personality, Bratya Basu of TMC. Kharda in North 24 Parganas is another significant seat where Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta will take on FICCI honcho Amit Mitra.
Kolkata’s 11 seats may not produce any fireworks being a TMC stronghold, yet, the Kolkata Port seat is all set to witness an interesting three-cornered fight among the Forward Bloc (Moinuddin Shams), TMC chief’s close aide Firhad Hakim and Ram Pyare Ram, the sitting MLA and Congress rebel. In the adjacent Metiabruz seat in South 24 Parganas too, the rebel Congress candidate has put a spanner in TMC’s easy win. In Raidighi, the otherwise insipid rural area of South 24 Parganas, the battle lines have been drawn between glamour and politics -- actor Debashree Roy and Sunderban affairs minister, Kanti Ganguly.
The last few days witnessed hectic campaigning with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram addressing rallies and making scathing attacks on the state government. The chief minister, enjoying personal rapport with the two, returned with his doses of fitting replies, outpouring his indignation towards the Congress-TMC alliance. Mamata Banerjee was the relentless sole campaigner for the party, hopping from one meeting place to another, leaving no corner unattended. She had to, because on Wednesday, the stakes are too high for her.