KOLKATA: He was famous for his ball control skills and deft passing on the football field. But former Indian captain and Trinamool’s sitting MP from Howrah, Prasun Banerjee is feeling the heat of a tough battle as the BJP mounts a determined offensive to oust him from the Bengal joust. Banerjee, the first footballer to enter Parliament, had rated his victory in 2013 byelection in Howrah as the ‘toughest’ and ‘most memorable’, even when compared to his winning the Arjuna Award in 1979-1980 or turning out for Mohun Bagan against Brazil’s legend Pele.
This time, the midfielder is not sure whether his skills in politics will be good enough to deal with the Saffron undercurrent across the state. Still a darling to soccer fans in Kolkata, as an MP he is not that popular, said a section of electors in Howrah. A few days ago, his car was intercepted by a group of angry locals in Howrah’s Dasnagar area and he was asked to explain what he had delivered in the last five years.
The BJP is banking on resentment against Banerjee as the CPM has been marginalised to the extent of becoming irrelevant electorally here. The Saffron brigade started making inroads in the area over five years ago.
A senior CPM leader held his party’s atrocities and highhandedness responsible for the BJP’s rise in the area. Areas in central and north Howrah are considered BJP’s strongholds. They are inhabited by businessmen whose ancestors came from other parts of the country and settled here during the British era.