Phase 3 of Bengal elections: 5 prominent candidates to keep an eye out for
With the third phase of the West Bengal assembly polls in 31 constituencies slated for Tuesday, the countdown for the much-anticipated three-cornered battle has already begun in the state. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will be seeking to breach several Trinamool Congress (TMC) bastions this time, while the Sanyukta Morcha, an alliance comprising the Left Front, the Indian Secular Front (ISF), and Congress, is also hoping to make a mark in areas where identity politics has gained ground.
205 candidates are in the fray in this round of polling, which will take place across the 31 assembly constituencies across three districts — South 24 Parganas, Howrah, and Hooghly. More than 78.5 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise and decide the fate of these candidates, most prominent among who include TMC minister Ashima Patra, BJP leader Swapan Dasgupta, and CPI(M) leader Kanti Ganguly.
Of these 31 seats going to polls on Tuesday, TMC won 29 of them in the 2016 assembly elections (15 seats in South 24 Parganas, 6 seats in Howrah, and 8 seats in Hooghly). The Left Front + Congress alliance secured the remaining 2 seats (1 in South 24 Parganas and 1 in Howrah). Talking about the vote share in the last assembly elections, TMC had secured 50%, the Left Front had 37% and the BJP had 7%.
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Here are five prominent candidates to keep an eye out for on Phase 3 of the West Bengal assembly elections on Tuesday:
1. Constituency: Tarakeswar (Hooghly)
Candidate: Swapan Dasgupta, BJP
Former Rajya Sabha MP and Padma Bhushan recipient Swapan Dasgupta came under the media spotlight in the run-up to the 2021 West Bengal assembly elections, since he left his post at the upper house of Parliament to contest the state polls from the Tarakeswar seat. A former journalist and academic, Dasgupta's works have been featured in a myriad of volumes on the intersectionality of Indian politics to subaltern studies. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also held a poll campaign rally in Tarakeswar recently, providing a potential boost to Dasgupta's prospects. The former parliamentarian will be facing TMC's Ramendu Singha Roy in the 2021 assembly polls.
2. Constituency: Raidighi (South 24 Parganas)
Candidate: Kanti Ganguly, CPI-M
Veteran CPI-M leader Kanti Ganguly was a former minister in the Left Front government in West Bengal, serving first as the minister in charge of Sunderbans development, and later as sports and youth welfare minister after the death of Subhas Chakraborty in 2009. Although he lost the last two elections to TMC's celebrity candidate Debashree Roy, the CPI-M this time is banking on Ganguly's much-publicised relief work done in the aftermath of Cyclone Amphan's devastation in rural Bengal. He will take on TMC's Alok Jaldata and BJP's Shantanu Bapuli.
3. Constituency: Shyampur (Howrah)
Candidate: Tanushree Chakraborty, BJP
In Howrah's Shyampur, the BJP has fielded Bengali actor Tanushree Chakraborty against TMC's sitting MLA Kalipada Mandal. Congress has fielded Amitabha Chakraborty, whom Mandal had defeated over 26,000 votes in the 2016 Assembly elections. Recently, however, Tanushree Chakraborty was in the news for joining fellow BJP candidates Payel Sarkar and Srabonti Chatterjee aboard a vessel on the river Hooghly to celebrate Holi with Trinamool Congress candidate and maverick politician Madan Mitra. Dismissing questions over political differences, however, the leaders had called for forgetting political differences and celebrating the festival of colours.
4. Constituency: Dhanekhali (Hooghly)
Candidate: Asima Patra, TMC
In the Dhanekhali seat, TMC has renominated state minister Asima Patra. She is up against Tusar Majumdar of BJP and Anirban Saha of Congress. In 2016, it was a one-way contest with Patra comfortably winning the election upstaging All India Forward Bloc's Pradip Majumdar by a huge margin of 58,644 votes. However, the Hooghly district witnessed the BJP making significant inroads in the 2019 General Elections with party candidate Locket Chatterjee winning the Lok Sabha seat. It remains to be seen if the 2.49 lakh voters of Dhanekhali opt for sitting TMC MLA and state minister Asima Patra this time, or throw their weight behind the BJP or the Sanyukta Morcha.
5. Constituency: Arambagh (Hooghly)
Candidate: Sujata Mondal Khan, TMC
For the Arambagh seat in the third phase, TMC is fielding Sujata Mondal Khan, whose husband, Saumitra Khan, is a BJP MP from Bishnupur. Mondal, a former BJP member, had decided to switch to TMC, after which her husband sent her a legal divorce notice. In 2016, TMC's Krishna Chandra Santra won the election by defeating the Communist Party Of India (Marxist)'s Asit Malik by a margin of 36,457 votes.
The districts of Howrah and Hooghly hold great significance in the upcoming two phases of the West Bengal Assembly polls, where the BJP has increased its presence in the 2019 general elections. Furthermore, several TMC members - including former minister Rajib Banerjee from the Domjur constituency - have quit the party to join rival BJP. The district also saw a large number of high-profile campaigns in the run-up to the elections. In the constituencies of South 24 Parganas, development, employment and the havoc caused by cyclone Amphan are counted among the key issues. On the other hand, in the constituencies of Howrah and Hooghly, there has been visible development but it is the lack of employment opportunities that haunt the ruling TMC, reports ANI.