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Will the green wave breach the red fortress in Arambagh?

Arambagh subdivision in Hooghly seems to have survived the "winds of change" although cracks are showing up in the strongest fort of the Left Front in West Bengal.

india Updated: Apr 29, 2011 13:00 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya

Arambagh subdivision in Hooghly seems to have survived the "winds of change" although cracks are showing up in the strongest fort of the Left Front in West Bengal.

If there are two belts in West Bengal, where the CPI(M) still calls the shots, they are Keshpur-Garbeta-Chandrakona in West Midnapore and Arambagh subdivision in Hooghly. Significantly the two borders.

One change has, however, has become evident! All of a sudden, Trinamool flags have been noticed next to every CPI(M) flag at a place where only Red flags have appeared in the last two decades. It seems that the CPI(M) would not enjoy a cakewalk here this time.

"Have you ever seen so many Opposition flags in Arambagh?" said Deepak Chatterjee, owner of a hotel at Arambagh town.

There are reasons. For the past two decades, the CPI(M) has been winning about 80% of rural body seats as well as the whole Arambagh civic board uncontested.

But in the 2009 general elections, CPI(M)'s Arambagh winning margin sharply came down from 5.92 lakh to about 2 lakh. In the 2010 civic polls, the Trinamool bagged six of the 18 seats in the once opposition-less Arambagh municipality.

"The general elections and the civic polls have shown CPI(M) margin to be dipping drastically," said Krishnapada Santra, Trinamool candidate from Arambagh.

In the 2008 panchayat polls, Opposition failed to field candidates in many seats and some candidates found no polling agent. In the 2009 general elections, the CPI(M) took a lead of a little more than 50,000 votes in Arambagh, about 60,000 votes in Goghat, about 30,000 in Khanakul and around 9,000 in Pursurah.

Even in 1984, when the "wind of sympathy" following Indira Gandhi's assassination reduced the Left's tally to only 20 parliamentary seats and when Mamata Banerjee shot to fame by defeating CPI(M) heavyweight Somnath Chatterjee from Left stronghold Jadavpur, Arambagh remained loyal to the CPI(M).

"We'll comfortably win all four seats in Arambagh subdivision," said Sunil Sarkar, CPI(M) state committee member from Hooghly.

"Let there be free polls and we are sure of a victory," said Iqbal Ahmed, Trinamool candidate from Khanakul.

"It's a terror zone where no one is allowed to support any other party except the CPI(M) or its allies. Our supporters are never allowed to participate in political activities," Partha Chatterjee, leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, told HT.

Tension is palpable in the violence-torn areas of Khanakul-Pursurah border. Vast areas of Khanakul and Pursurah have witnessed bloody political violence over last two years.

"Trinamool is trying to create a reign of terror in Pursurah. But here people have always been peace loving. I don't think they are going to vote for someone who will destroy this atmosphere of peace," said Soumendranath Bera, minister of state, information and culture, and CPI(M) candidate from Pursurah.

The removal of the former seven-time MP from Arambagh and Hooghly CPI(M) strongman, Anil Basu, from all campaign programmes has definitely added to the Left's worries. "Missing our campaign leader would definitely affect the cadres' morale," said a CPI(M) leader of Khanakul.

Will the tide turn the other way this time? Trinamool claims to be optimistic. But in that case, it would be the fall of the Left's strongest bastion in the state.