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Muslim vote, rebels key factors

‘Independents’ in Murshidabad and Nadia could spoil Trinamool-Congress party. HT reports.

kolkata Updated: Apr 23, 2011 17:44 IST
HT Bureau

Three districts, 50 constituencies, 293 candidates. These cold statistics don’t really reflect the true nature of the fight that will unfold on Saturday, the second round of the six-phase polling process in the state.

Which way will the minorities vote and will the large number of Opposition rebel candidates that are in the fray in at least two districts, Murshidabad and Nadia, spoil the Trinamool-Congress party? These are the issues at stake in the second phase of the Battle for Bengal.

In Murshidabad, which has 22 seats, and Nadia, which has 17, it is the Opposition battling the opposition. Unhappy with the Pradesh Congress Committee’s decision to concede to Mamata Banerjee’s demand for seats that are traditionally known to be Congress strongholds, disgruntled Congress leaders have either put up their own people as Independents, or simply asked party workers not to take part in the campaign for Trinamool candidates.

Murshidabad district Congress president and Behrampore MP, Adhir Choudhury, refused to withdraw the Independent candidates he put up against Trinamool nominees at Jalangi, Sagardighi, Bhagabangola and Hariharpara. Even threats of disciplinary action could not deter Choudhury, who argued that his allegiance lay with his party first and the alliance later.

In Nadia district, Shankar Singh took a similar stand with support from Deepa Dasmunshi, the MP from Raigunj in North Bengal. But, with his own position not as strong as it used to be a few years ago, Singh has reluctantly decided to lie low for the time being. Yet, at Ranaghat, Singh’s bastion, Congress workers may play spoilsport for the Trinamool.

In Birbhum district, which has only 11 seats, all eyes will be fixed on the Nalhati constituency, from where Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee’s son, Abhijit, is making his political debut.

Apart from Abhijit, other heavyweights in the fray on Saturday include the CPI(M)’s Anisur Rahman, a minister in the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government for the past two decades. The fate of another candidate will also be closely followed: the Trinamool’s Rukbanur Rahman, contesting from Chapra in Nadia.

The support of the minority community will be crucial for both parties. Murshidabad alone has a 64% Muslim population and Nadia, too, has a significant number of Muslim voters.