Amid reports of CPM-BJP pact, Trinamool prepares for close contest in Dum Dum
A day before the Dum Dum Lok Sabha constituency in the northern fringes of Kolkata goes to polls, an allegation of a secret meeting between a Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate on Thursday has become the talking point.
BJP candidate Samik Bhattacharya and the party’s Bengal election cell convenor Mukul Roy said they did not meet CPI(M)’s Paltu Dasgupta in the Nagerbazar area, as alleged by Trinamool Congress, but went to wish a party worker’s wife on her birthday. However, till Saturday evening TMC leaders kept alleging that BJP has entered into an understanding with CPI (M). Interestingly, the allegation finds its root in the past.
Comprising industrial pockets and trade hubs spread across seven assembly segments in North 24 Parganas district, Dum Dum is the only seat in Bengal that stood by BJP twice when the CPI (M) regime was at its peak. BJP’s Tapan Sikdar won it in 1998 and 1999. It is widely believed that it became possible because a large section of Left voters supported Sikdar.
Although CPI (M) wrested the seat in 2004, TMC veteran Saugata Roy reclaimed it in 2009 and won again in 2014. In 2009, Roy scraped through by 20,478 votes and later increased it to 1.5 lakh.
To make things difficult for Roy this year, CPI (M) has fielded Nepaldeb Bhattacharya. Expelled from the party on disciplinary ground a decade ago and later reinstated, Bhattacharya used to control the CPI (M)’s fabled election machinery in parts of North 24 Parganas. Voters feel that although the CPI (M) has a dedicated vote bank even now, Bhattacharya’s role will be limited to playing spoilsport for Roy in a quadrangular contest.
Considered one of the best speakers in Bengal BJP, Samik Bhattacharya had the privilege of having Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing his last rally in Dum Dum before campaign ended in Bengal on May 16. “Mamata Banerjee stands exposed before the electorate who brought her to power with high expectations. TMC got so unnerved by the huge turnout at Modi Ji’s rally that they started this malicious campaign. People are laughing at it,” Bhattacharya said.
A section of voters, however, feel that Left votes may swing towards BJP in some parts. “In 2014, TMC got most of the votes that earlier went to CPI,(M). On Sunday, things may go a different way in pockets where Hindi speaking voters have sizeable presence,” Tarak Dutta, a shop owner in Panihati, said.
“I have absolutely no doubt about TMC’s victory. I am sure the margin of victory will be comfortable in all assembly segments. BJP is not a threat,” Saugata Roy, for whom chief minister Mamata Banerjee addressed three rallies, said.
“The allegations are baseless. TMC is scared because it has failed to deliver on its promises. The closed factories in Dum Dum tell the real story,” said Nepaldeb Bhattacharya.