Will Jadavpur choose political novice or seasoned player?

somnath chatterjee

Kolkata (West Bengal), May 18 (IANS) The talk of the town is whether the Jadavpur Lok Sabha constituency in West Bengal — which had earlier sent stalwarts like Somnath Chatterjee and a greenhorn Mamata Banerjee to the Lower House — would choose a political novice and film-star as its parliamentary representative, or will go with a seasoned lawyer with years of administrative experience.

Many in the constituency were taken by surprise when Trinamool Congress supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee fielded actress Mimi Chakraborty from Jadavpur after sitting MP and Harvard University professor Sugata Bose opted out citing lack of permission from the US university where he teaches history.

Chakraborty (30) is pitted against Left Front backed CPI-M candidate and former Kolkata Mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya (68) and the BJP’s Anupam Hazra (37).

While only time would tell whether Banerjee’s gamble will pay off, there is no doubt that she has taken a risk in the backdrop of the jitters faced by the Trinamool in some of the Assembly segments, including Bhangar, under this prestigious Lok Sabha seat.

Following the unrest over the ‘forced’ acquisition of 16 acres of farmland — spread over Khamarait, Machhi Bhanga, Tona and Padmapukur villages — by the state government for the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL), questions are being raised whether the party still retain its sway over its erstwhile stronghold Bhangar amid bickering within the party between MLA Abdur Razzak Molla and local leader Arabul Islam.

The activists of ‘Jami, Jibika, Paribesh O Bastutantra Raksha Committee’ (a committee to protect land, livelihood, environment and ecosystem), which had spearheaded the land agitation in Bhangar, have openly extended their support to CPI-M candidate Bhattacharya.

Bhattachrya, an ace lawyer and a prominent face of the party, is known for his fight against graft cases such as the Saradha chit fund scam and the Narada sting case, in which Trinamool leaders were purportedly involved. The Marxists expect his nomination to arrest erosion of its vote bank and turn the tide in their favour in the constituency.

The Congress has not put up a candidate from Jadavpur with its state chief Somen Mitra announcing the party’s support for Bhattacharya “for the benefit of the constituency and the state”.

Bhattacharya, who has been campaigning extensively, taunted the Trinamool, saying that Bose withdrew as he did not “subscribe to the way the Trinamool functions or the attitude it displays”.

“If the voters are allowed to exercise their franchise independently, I am confident of winning by a handsome margin. The challenge is to fight against Trinamool’s threats and intimidation to the voters,” he said.

Jadavpur, adjacent to the eastern metropolis, is a mix of urban, semi-urban and rural areas comprising seven Assembly segments — Baruipur East and West, Sonarpur North and South, Bhangar, Jadavpur and Tollygunj — and has over 18.16 lakh voters.

A look at the 2014 Lok Sabha verdict shows the keen contest the Trinamool is likely to face in retaining the seat — if Bhangar switches allegiance — which its outgoing MP had won by a margin of over 1.25 lakh votes, securing 46 per cent vote share.

The CPI-M gave a good fight to the Trinamool in most of the Assembly segments in 2014, except Bhangar which had given Bose a lead of over 60,000 votes. And the Left Front’s votes in the Jadavpur Assembly segment had exceeded that of the Trinamool.

In 2016, Trinamool had won six Assembly seats, though the CPI-M had won the Jadavpur seat from where then state Minister Manish Gupta was humbled by Sujon Chakraborty.

According to the political analysts, Jadavpur is among the few seats where Muslim votes, consisting about 31.7 per cent of the electorate here, are not expected to be consolidated in favour of Trinamool because a substantial share of it is likely to go to Bhattacharya.

However, Trinamool is banking on its nominee Chakraborty, a popular face in the Bengali film industry.

“I gained confidence while moving around the different areas and have learnt a lot from the seniors. When no one supported me, lakhs of people saw my cinema and blessed me. I am sure that I would not be deprived of their blessings in Jadavpur,” she said.

In the 2018 rural body polls, Trinamool had captured the Zilla Parishad seats (top tier of the three-rung panchayat system), although the saffron party made gains in the gram panchayats (the lowest rung) in some pockets.

Despite the rising popularity of the saffron party in the state, the BJP seems to be running much behind its two rivals.

Moreover, its candidate Anupam Hazra, who had won the Bolpur Lok Sabha seat in 2014 on a Trinamool ticket but was expelled by the party for anti-party activities, has courted controversy by meeting and taking the blessings of Trinammol strongman Anubrata Mondal in Birbhum district during campaigning.

He accused the Trinamool of hatching a conspiracy against him, but said that he was “confident of pulling off a victory”.

“Trinamool fielded a celebrity candidate in Jadavpur as it is their strategy to resort to gimmick when the party is not confident of winning the seat,” he said.

However, Hazra too made his campaign colourful to gain confidence of the voters.

Amid the recent controversy over the smashing of a bust of social reformer Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar during BJP President Amit Shah’s rally in Kolkata on Tuesday, Hazra introduced a person dressed like Vidyasagar on the final day of campaigning.

Earlier, he had roped in wrestler Dalip Singh Rana, better known by his ring name The Great Khali, in his campaign.

The nine remaining Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal, including Jadavpur, will vote in the final phase of polling on Sunday.

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