IT IS the most high profile constituency of West Bengal. It is also the most upwardly mobile part of Kolkata with a largely middle and upper middle class society. And cosmopolitan South Kolkata — littered with malls, multiplexes, cafes and restaurants — has sent a woman who wears crushed cotton sarees and rubber sandals to Parliament five times in a row.
The question is will Mamata Banerjee make it a sixth time?
Delimitation has changed the contours of South Kolkata constituency as well as its demography. The seat now consists of the Assembly segments of Kasba, Behala East, Behala West, Kolkata Port, Bhowanipore, Rashbehari and Ballygunge. In these areas, Muslims comprise nearly 23 per cent of the voters; and there are others like Gujaratis, Chinese, Marwaris and Sikhs.
“Apart from the middle-class vote bank, Muslims and non-Bengalis too are committed Mamata voters. Delimitation will not affect her,” said party MP Mukul Roy.
Mamata too is dismissive of the delimitation effect. “I don’t believe all this. I have lost some and gained some good areas. Plus, I believe it is the people, and not delimitation, that would determine my fate.”
The Trinamool Congress chief has won this seat since 1991. Mamata won for the first time in 1984 from the Jadavpur seat defeating CPM’s Somnath Chatterjee. She is taking a shot this time against Rabin Deb.
Analysts say Mamata has another factor in her favour this time — her alliance with the Congress, which has 1.37 lakh votes in South Kolkata and this will go in Mamata’s kitty.
“The alliance will help Mamata, especially when she is contesting a delimitated seat. The Congress vote bank would be crucial for her,” said South Kolkata District Congress president Nirbed Roy.
But the CPM too sees a silver lining in the delimitation-affected seat. Of the seven Assembly segments, two — Behala East and Behala West — are Left strongholds. Also, significant Trinamool areas have been shifted to the Jadavpur seat.
The CPM, trying to woo the youth, is also hardselling the fact that Mamata is a symbol of anti-development and an obstacle to industries and employment generation.
Moreover, it feels if college elections are any indication, then, barring a couple, its students’ wing SFI holds sway in most south Kolkata institutions.
The party’s confidence stems from the fact that Mamata’s Singur movement that led the Tatas to fold up their Nano plant has disappointed the urban voter. She is considered a villain who is against Bengal’s economic development.
“South Kolkata has the most consumerist society and would have been a principal buyer of Nano. People have not liked what she has done,” said Deb. “Also, this is a politically-conscious segment and it will give a fitting reply to Trinamool.”
But Roy has the last word: “It is wishful thinking. South Kolkata in Bengal is comparable to Amethi and Rae Barelli in UP. If the Congress loses in the entire country, it would still win the two UP seats. Similarly, if the Trinamool is wiped out here, it would still win South Kolkata.”