KOLKATA: By-elections in three Bengal Assembly constituencies scheduled on Monday is going to be litmus test not only for the BJP, the Trinamool Congress and Left Front-Congress alliance but also for election strategist Prashant Kishor, who was hired by chief minister Mamata Banerjee after her party’ unimpressive performance in the Lok Sabha elections.
While the BJP is basking on the Ayodhya verdict, which cleared the way for construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site, to polarise the Hindu votes, the ruling party and Left-Congress alliance adopted the same battle-line banking on the fear among common people over National Register of Citizenship (NRC) issue which omitted more than 19 lakh people, mostly Hindus, in its final list in neighbouring state Assam.
Amit Shah’s recent pitch for a nationwide NRC exercise received mixed reactions from various quarters and the Bengal BJP’s focus on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill has also become a political tool for Mamata and Left-Congress alliance to combat the saffron camp in the bypolls.
By-elections will be held in Kharagpur(Sadar), Kaliaganj and Karimpur seats on Monday. In the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP secured an impressive margin of more than 40,000 votes in Kharagpur(Sadar) and Kaliaganj seats.
The micromanagement of Kishore and his I-PAC team comprising more than 300 professionals to reverse the erosion in Trinamool base is the topic of discussion in all three seats. In the wake of the ruling party’s debacle and BJP’s deep inroads in Bengal taking its tally from two to 18, Mamata floated a mass outreach drive under the banner of Didi Ke Bolo (Tell Your Sister), a brainchild of Kishore to rebuild the party’s mass connect in grass route level.
‘’The result of the by-elections will reflect the success or failure of the outreach drive. Based on Kishore’s suggestion, we released three separate manifestos focusing on local issues for the three constituencies which was first of its kind,’’ said a senior Trinamool leader.
On the back foot since the NRC list which left out a huge number of Hindus in Assam, the Ayodhya verdict in Bengal provided the BJP fresh weapon to polarise the electorate in Bengal.
‘’Our party will win all three seats in the by-elections. The people of West Bengal have made u their mind to overthrow Mamata Banerjee’s party in 2021 Assembly elections,’’ said BJP’s state president Dilip Ghosh.
Political observers in Bengal found the exclusion of huge number of Hindus in the NRC list in Assam has become point of concern for the saffron camp in Bengal. Karimpur and Kaliaganj constituencies have a sizable population of Muslims and Dalits. Most of the Dalits in the two seats are descendants of refugees who fled to Bengal during partition after Bangladesh liberation war in 1971.
In Kharagpur (Sadar) seat, the Ayodhya verdict is expected to help BJP as the constituency has a high percentage of non-Bengali population. Though the party is worried to some extent after a local leader, who was a ticket aspirant, formed a BJP Bachao (Save BJP) Committee filed nomination as an independent candidate.
Two of the three Assembly constituencies - Kharagpur Sadar and Karimpur - fell vacant post general election as the sitting MLAs contested and won Lok Sabha seats. By-polls were necessitated in Kaliaganj following the death of Congress MLA Parmathanath Roy. The Congress fielded candidates in Kaliaganj and Kharagpur(Sadar) seats while Left is contesting in Karimpur.