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West Bengal: Sabang bypoll to test Mukul Roy’s grit

The Sabang bypoll election is significant as it comes only a few months ahead of the rural elections in the state in 2018.

kolkata Updated: Dec 19, 2017 01:25 IST
Koushik Dutta
Koushik Dutta
Hindustan Times, Sabang
Mukul Roy,Sabang bypoll,Trinamool Congress
Former Trinamool Congress leader Mukul Roy switched to BJP camp in November.(PTI Photo)

Ahead of Sabang bypoll scheduled on December 21, former Trinamool Congress leader Mukul Roy, who switched to BJP in November, is facing baptism by fire where the saffron party is largely banking on him to turn its fringe presence into a formidable force.

To thwart Roy’s plans, senior Trinamool Congress (TMC) party leaders have swooped on the constituency to prove that Roy is nothing more than a paper tiger.

In the 2016 elections, BJP got only 2.60 % votes, though it a was a marginal improvement on the miniscule 1.3% in 2011.

Congress candidate Manas Bhunia, 63, won in 2016 for the seventh time. But he later switched to TMC. The seat fell vacant when the party nominated Bhunia in Rajya Sabha.

TMC has nominated Gita Bhunia, wife of Manas Bhunia, as their candidate. The BJP candidate is Antara Bhattacharya, who was with CPI(M) and served as the sabhadhipati of West Midnapore Zilla Parishad from 2008 to 2013.

The Sabang bypoll election is significant as it comes only a few months ahead of the rural elections in the state in 2018.

The rural polls are crucial since it will indicate the popularity of BJP that has set a target of winning 22 seats — half of the 44 Lok Sabha constituencies in Bengal — in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

BJP is substantially depending on Roy to pull off a magic in the rural and Lok Sabha elections. The Sabang bypoll will test whether Roy can stand on his own without the halo of Mamata Banerjee, under whom he worked so far.

“Mukul Roy has great organisational skills. Local workers are going to every voter and telling him about the achievements of the Union government. They are also telling the people how Bhunia betrayed their trust and switched to TMC,” said district BJP leader Tushar Mukherjee.

TMC leaders such as MP and Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek, education minister Partha Chatterjee, transport minister Suvendu Adhikari, law minister Chandrima Bhattacharya, party general secretary Subrata Bakshi are holding public meetings in the area. They have all lashed out at Roy.

First Published: Dec 19, 2017 01:25 IST