Four TMC candidates for Bengal bypolls on Oct 30 file nomination papers
KOLKATA: As West Bengal geared up for Durga Puja, the state’s most important religious festival, candidates for the four assembly seats that go to the bypolls on October 30 filed their nomination papers on Thursday.
The constituencies are Dinhata in north Bengal’s Cooch Behar district, and Santipur in Nadia district, Khardah in North 24 Parganas and Gosaba in South 24 Parganas, in south Bengal.
Analysts feel that Dinhata will witness the most-fierce contest among the four seats as the BJP is perceived to have rapidly expanded its base in north Bengal. The party bagged seven of the region’s eight Lok Sabha seats in 2019, and 30 of the 54 assembly seats in the eight north Bengal districts although the TMC won 213 of the state’s 294 seats.
The Dinhata seat fell vacant after the local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Lok Sabha member Nisith Pramanik, who contested the March-April election and won by 57 votes in a close contest, did not take oath to remain in the Lok Sabha. He was appointed Union minister of state for home affairs in July.
Ashok Mondal, the BJP candidate, said, “I am not new to elections. I am sure voters will support me and my party.”
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) has once again fielded Udayan Guha, the former Forward Bloc leader who bagged the Dinhata seat for the ruling party in 2011 and 2016.
“He is daydreaming. The TMC’s victory is certain,” quipped Guha who was injured in an attack after the March-April polls and hospitalized for more than two months. Two security personnel assigned for his protection suffered head injuries in the attack.
Like Dinhata, Nadia’s Santipur goes to the polls since the local BJP Lok Sabha member, Jagannath Sarkar, opted to remain in Parliament after winning the state poll.
The BJP has fielded Niranjan Biswas against the TMC’s Brajakishore Goswami, a member of the Vaishnav community.
Located close to the Indo-Bangladesh border, Nadia has witnessed caste and religion playing a major role in recent elections because of the sizeable presence of Hindu refugees from Bangladesh. Most of them belong to Hindu Dalit communities, such as the Matuas, who were the focus of the BJP’s campaign in both Lok Sabha and assembly elections.
Mahua Moitra, the TMC Lok Sabha member from Krishnanagar in Nadia, wasted no time and started campaigning for Brajakishore Goswami on Thursday along with Saayoni Ghosh, president of the TMC youth wing.
“If people can elect a TMC candidate for the Lok Sabha, won’t they vote for us in the assembly? We will surely win the seat,” Moitra said at a campaign meeting.
Santipur used to be a Congress stronghold and its leader Ajoy Dey has bagged the seat five times since 1991. He crossed over to the Trinamool Congress and contested the election on a TMC ticket in 2014, winning it for the sixth time. But the Congress wrested it back in 2016.
“Though we have left the other three seats for the Left parties to honour our electoral alliance, we will contest from Santipur,” Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury declared on Thursday.
The Khardah seat is vacant because TMC’s Kajal Sinha, who won it, died of Covid-19 before the results were declared on May 2. The TMC has fielded Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, who won the Bhawanipore seat in south Kolkata but stepped aside so that Mamata Banerjee could contest again from her old constituency and continue as chief minister. Banerjee was defeated at East Midnapore district’s Nandigram by her protégé-turned-adversary Suvendu Adhikari.
Khardah, which was once a stronghold of the CPI(M) and represented five times by former finance minister Asim Dasgupta, became the winning seat for Amit Mitra, who also became finance minister in Mamata Banerjee’s team, in 2011 and 2016. But Mitra did not contest this year owing to health issues.
Since Mitra will not be able to continue as minister without winning a seat, the chief minister is planning an alternative arrangement for him, TMC leaders said.
“People of Khardah have always stood by us. I have full faith in our voters,” Bengal power minister Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, said after filing his nomination papers.
The BJP has fielded Joy Saha, a much younger leader compared to 77-year-old Chattopadhyay, who is among the TMC’s founder members.
At Gosaba in the Sunderbans region, TMC veteran Jayanta Naskar who represented the seat twice since 2011 died after his third victory. The TMC has fielded Subrata Mondal, a local leader, against the BJP’s Palash Rana, a debutant.
In 1967, when the newly-formed Gosaba constituency went to the polls for the first time, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh bagged the seat. But between 1969 and 2006, the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), a Left Front partner, had absolute control over the constituency. The Congress managed to win it only once in 1972 when the Siddhartha Shankar Ray government came to power.
The BJP, which won 77 seats in the state’s general elections, is now left with an effective strength of 71 legislators. The ruling party, on the other hand, have increased its numbers from 213 to 215 by winning two seats in Murshidabad where elections could not be held because of the death of two candidates. These results were announced on October 3 along with that of the Bhawanipore bypoll which Mamata Banerjee won. The CPI(M) and its partners have announced that they will contest all four bypolls, including Santipur where the Congress will field a candidate.