KOLKATA: The campaigning for the crucial February 13 by-elections to two seats - one Lok Sabha and the other Assembly - ended today.
Eleven candidates are contesting the by-election in the Bongaon (SC) Lok Sabha seat in North 24-Paraganas district, bordering Bangladesh, while for the by-election to the Krishnaganj (SC) Assembly seat in Nadia district there are five candidates in fray.
The by-elections, which will be held in the shadow of the Saradha scam being investigated by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate, will tell the contesting parties about which way the wind is blowing before the crucial elections to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation and about 80 municipalities across the state to be held in the middle of this year and the assembly polls to be held next year.
On a back foot after the Saradha scam exploded in its face, the Trinamool Congress has accused the BJP of launching a political vendetta through the CBI probe.
While the TMC, backed by a strong organisational machinery is confident of retaining the two seats on the basis of what they claimed huge development work undertaken by the Mamata Banerjee government, the BJP, which is gearing up to strengthen its party organisation, is equally hopeful.
The BJP, which secured 18 per cent vote share in the state in the last Lok Sabha polls and bagged two seats - Asansol and Darjeeling - is trying to change the political equations in the state, which till recently was polarised between the Left and the TMC.
Admitting that Congress was on a "weak wicket", West Bengal PCC President Adhir Chowdhury has said the party would be "fighting for its existence" in the February 13 by-elections in Bangaon Lok Sabha and Krishnaganj Assembly seats.
The CPI(M) which headed the Left Front government for three decades is trying to retrieve its lost position and is confident of good showing in the by-polls and wrest the seats from TMC.
The Bongaon parliamentary seat fell vacant after the death of the Trinamool Congress MP Kapil Krishna Thakur. His wife Mamata Bala Thakur has been nominated by TMC to contest from the seat.
The election to Bongaon became significant after Mamata Banerjee lost one of her ministers to the BJP less than a month before a crucial by-election in a border constituency.
Manjul Krishna Thakur, minister for refugee relief and rehabilitation and brother of Kapil Krishna resigned from the ministry and joined the BJP along with his son Subrata Thakur.
BJP subsequently fielded Subrata Thakur as the party candidate for the seat.
Thakur family represents the Matua community, an important vote bank in over 70 constituencies, especially along the Bangladesh border, and including Bongaon.
The CPI(M) has renominated this time Debesh Das, the former IT minister in the Left Front government who was defeated by Trinamool's Kapil Krishna Thakur in the seat in 2014 Lok Sabha poll.
Congress has fielded party activist Kuntal Mondal as its candidate in the seat.
In the Krishnaganj seat the election was being held due to the death of the TMC MLA Sushil Biswas.
Trinamool Congress has fielded local party leader Satyajit Biswas for the seat. The CPI(M) has nominated a physician Apurba Biswas for the seat. The BJP has fielded professor Manabendra Roy for the seat. Congress has fielded local party activist Nityagopal Mondal for the seat.
While Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee did not campaign leaving the job to her party lieutenants, the party's top leaders including Mukul Roy, MP Saugata Roy and Mamata's nephew Abhishek Banerjee, an MP, were the star campaigners.
For the BJP, its national secretary Siddharth Nath Singh, Union minister Babul Supriyo and state party chief Rahul Sinha spearheaded the party's campaign.
The CPI(M) campaign was led by party state secretary Biman Bose while state Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury led the party's charge in the two seats.
The Opposition have been claiming that Saradha episode will definitely have an adverse impact in Trinamool electoral prospects.
"In the Saradha scam, public money has been looted. All those involved in the scam must be punished," senior BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi who campaigned for the party at Bongaon recently had said.
Trinamool leader Mukul Roy during a campaign at Bongaon said recently, "Whenever elections come, the Saradha issue crops up. It started during the panchayat elections in 2013.The same happened before the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and now it has cropped up again."
The former Railway minister was quizzed by the CBI on January 30 in connection with the multi-crore Saradha scam while the state transport minister Madan Mitra is now in jail connection with the scam.
Referring to the BJP drubbing in the Delhi assembly at the hands of AAP, the state BJP chief Rahul Sinha said, "By-polls will be fought on different issues. Lok Sabha and Assembly elections are not the same."