Is chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee being haunted by the spectre of possible defeat? The question is becoming louder as he has confined himself to his constituency, Jadavpur only, conduting 13 meetings since March 1, when the poll dates were announced.
According to party sources he will address another eight meetings in his home turf, running up as many as 21 meetings in the 10 Kolkata Municipal Corporation wards that constitute his assembly constituency.
In addition he will undertake a padayatra, aping Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee, on Saturday. He has already participated in a road show on April 3.
In contrast, Bhattacharjee addressed only six meetings before the 2006 polls, when the Left Front had won as many as 235 seats in the 294-seat Assembly constituency.
“The chief minister has consciously campaigned in other areas before the announcement of poll dates. After the restrictions on use of microphones are lifted this week, he would be campaigning in two or three adjacent constituencies,” said Mohammad Selim, CPI(M) central committee member.
In fact, Bhattacharjee is staying away from campaigning for any of the 45 constituencies that are going to polls in the first phase on April 18 in the north Bengal districts.
“Buddhada might finally scrape through. But it will surely not be cakewalk this time,” a local CPI(M) leader from Ganguly Bagan area told HT on conditions of anonimity. Bhattacharjee is pitted against the state’s former chief secretary Manish Gupta, who is the Trinamool candidate.
“This time the battle seems to be really tough for the chief minister. It is evident from the frequent meetings and road shows in the area,” said Babu Mistitri, a paan shop owner in Bagha Jatin area, which is at the heart of the Jadavpur constituency.
Apart from the anti-incumbency wave sweeping the state, statistics too appear scary for the poster boy of the country’s biggest communist party. While, in 2006, the chief minister won by a margin of 58,000 votes in the Assembly election, the margin came down to 19,000 in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
Worse, in the 2010 Kolkata Municipal Corporation polls, Trinamool bagged six wards out of the 10 wards that constitute the constituency.
“In earlier polls, the opposition was never a serious contender. But this time they do appear a determined lot and it is showing in their campaign. It is natural that the chief minister’s time allotment for Jadavpur this time would be more that what it was earlier,” said Sampa Sengupta, a homemaker of Jadavpur constituency.
Last week, Mamata Banerjee held one of her five padayatras in Kolkata through the Raja Subodh Mallick Road, the arterial road that runs through Bhattacharjee’s constituency and a mamoth crowd walked with her.