Who will stay afloat at the port? | kolkata | Hindustan Times
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Who will stay afloat at the port?

The poll equation is really complicated this time at Kolkata Port; a post-delimitation assembly constituency formed with four wards from erstwhile Kabitirtha, three from erstwhile Garden Reach and one from Chowringhee. Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri reports.

kolkata Updated: Apr 22, 2011 15:13 IST
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri

The poll equation is really complicated this time at Kolkata Port; a post-delimitation assembly constituency formed with four wards from erstwhile Kabitirtha, three from erstwhile Garden Reach and one from Chowringhee.

The voters of Kolkata Port, which is going to polls in the third phase scheduled for April 27, is all set to witness a close and three-way electoral tussle, thereby making it difficult for poll pundits to make any clear projections about the seat. A vanilla reading of the constituency with an estimated 70% of voters belonging to the Muslim community might suggest that the battle would essentially be concentrated between Trinamool’s Firhad (Bobby) Hakim and All India Forward Bloc’s Moinuddin Shams.

However, with Ram Pyare Ram, a six-time Congress MLA from the erstwhile Kabitirtha, contesting this time as an Independent, all poll equations could potentially get jumbled. Another key question doing the rounds is that even if the dissident Congress MLA and a nine-time councillor from the area, fails to return a favourable mandate, to what extent could he play the spoiler for Hakim and Shams.

Simple statistics would bear out how complicated the poll equations are likely to be in Kolkata Port this time. In the 2010 municipal elections, Trinamool bagged 40% of the votes polled, Left Front bagged 32%, Congress garnered 18%, and the remaining 10% went in favour of others and Independents.

The dissident Congress MLA and his wife Hema Ram, also a Congress councillor, mostly contributed to the 18% vote share of the party. Buoyed by their 40% vote share, Trinamool persisted on retaining the seat, a demand that the Congress eventually had to concede. However, the Congress’s call to part with the Port seat irked Ram, who later decided to contest as an Independent. Even the threat of suspension for six years from Congress could not deter him.

“I know the constituency like the back of my hands, which is why people of Kabitirtha elected me six times since 1971. It is not just Congress’s backing that helped me win so many times. My personal calibre also contributed to my string of victories. People here know who stands by them through the year and I am confident that their feelings would find reflection on the ballot box this time as well,” said Ram while campaigning through the narrow and dingy lanes of the constituency clad in white kurta-pyjama. Ram also holds the rare distinction of being elected an MLA during the tenures of four chief ministers, namely Ajoy Mukherjee, Siddhartha Shankar Ray, Jyoti Basu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

While his own calibre is Ram’s source of confidence, for Hakim, the optimism lies in the ongoing tsunami of change sweeping the state and the charisma of his leader, Mamata Banerjee. “I am no one. It is my leader Mamata Banerjee’s name, which will help me to win by a huge margin. The results of 2010 municipal elections is an illustration of the Trinamool’s strength here,” said Hakim, who owns a plastic factory in his constituency.

Shams, who twice lost to Ram, is resting his hopes on his nemesis to make a sizeable dent in Trinamool’s vote share and also his declining margin of victory since 1996. “Since 1996, his winning margin has been on the wane and it came down to as low as 9,357 in 2006. If the trend continues this time too, the chances of my victory would be more,” said Shams, a lawyer by profession and son of former Bengal assembly deputy speaker Kalimuddin Shams.