KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s decision to thrust two popular Tollywood faces into the unforgiving arena of electoral politics has set the stage for a mouthwatering, three-way battle for Jadavpur and Basirhat Lok Sabha constituencies.
It took many Jadavpur voters by surprise when Mamata fielded Mimi Chakrabarty, a Tollywood A-lister but a political novice, in a high profile constituency that has sent the likes of former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s niece Krishna Bose and Mamata herself to the Lower House.
Once a Left stronghold, the CPM has pinned its hopes on former mayor of Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya to turn the tide of Jadavpur’s voting sentiment back in its favour. The BJP has hedged its bets on turncoat Trinamool MP from Bolpur, Anupam Hazra.
Home to countless refugees from erstwhile East Bengal, Jadavpur has a mix of urban and rural populations and had been a CPM fortress for long. In 1984, Mamata made her debut from here and inflicted a surprise defeat on Somnath Chatterjee. This time, Trinamool chief is hoping that her gamble with the Tollywood star will reap a similar dividend.
CPM leaders in Kolkata said the party has pitted a stalwart candidate in Bhattacharya because, despite the party’s weak organisation and support base, it believes Jadavpur can throw up a pleasant surprise.
“If voters are allowed to exercise their franchise freely, I am confident I will win. Trinamool supporters are threatening urban voters saying if they do not vote in favour of their candidate, essential services like water supply will be cut off,” Bhattacharya said.
Hazra, who started his poll campaign late, said, “In Jadavpur, there’s a strong anti-Trinamool wave and I have a feeling that I will by a huge margin.”
Trinamool leaders are banking on rural voters, as the party did well in last year’s panchayat polls. Despite a mass protest in Bhangar two years ago over alleged forcible land acquisition for setting up a power grid project, the ruling party won all the rural bodies in the area in 2018 panchayat elections.
The other celeb candidate, actor Nusrat Jahan, is Trinamool’s trump card in Basirhat Lok Sabha constituency in North 24-Parganas district. The district had seen several communal flare-ups in the recent past. The 2017 riots in Baduria kept the area tensed for several days before law and order was restored.
This time, Basirhat is all set to see a fierce fight between the Trinamool and BJP.
The Trinamool won the Lok Sabha seat twice but the party changed its candidates repeatedly. By fielding Nusrat, Trinamool hopes to woo young voters and a considerable section of the minority community as well.
However, Basirhat is one of the seats in Bengal where the BJP is eyeing a win, as it has made significant inroads into the region along the India-Bangladesh border. The area has also courted infamy over alleged cases of cattle smuggling.
Repeated incidents of communal discord is believed to have resulted in a clear polarisation of voters in Basirhat. Banking on it, the BJP has fielded a strong candidate in Sayantan Basu, the general secretary of the party in West Bengal. The Lok Sabha constituency has around 40% minority voters.
“Voters in Basirhat counted the costs of the state government’s appeasement policy towards a particular community.,” Basu said.
Barasat Lok Sabha constituency, a Left bastion-turned-Trinamool-stronghold, had seen a remarkable turn of events in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The BJP increased its electoral support by almost 18%, thereby denting the vote banks of both the Trinamool and the Forward Bloc.
The BJP has pitted Mrinal Kanti Debnath against Trinamool’s Kakali Ghosh Dastidar, who is contesting for the third consecutive time.