It is election season again in West Bengal, if by-elections are held in a few constituencies.
The contest is for Asansol Lok Sabha and Baliganj Assembly seats.
The state’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) has fielded two former Union ministers from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Shatrughna Sinha is contesting Asansol parliamentary seat, Babul Supriya is the Trinamool nominee in Baliganj. The two-seat by-election will be held on April 12.
Due to the death of TMC MLA Subrata Mukherjee, it is necessary to contest in Baliganj Assembly seat. And Babul Supriya, who was the BJP’s Asansol MP, resigned and went to the grassroots, leading to a by-election.
The battle for the Asansol seat should be particularly interesting, observers say. The grassroots have never won here. The constituency was a stronghold of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) which has held it continuously since 1989 until the singer-politician Supriya snatched it from the BJP in 2014 and won it again in 2019. Now he is in the grassroots, which is the seat chosen by Shatrughan Sinha. Analysts say the actor-politician, originally from Bihar, has a good chance of winning as the seat has about 40% non-Bengali voters.
Supriya got 51.16% votes for BJP here in 2019, winning by a margin of nearly 2 lakh votes.
In last year’s state elections, out of seven assembly constituencies under the Asansol Lok Sabha constituency, the BJP could win only two and the TMC took the rest.
So this time the grassroots are confident of winning the seat. Abhishek Banerjee, the party’s national general secretary who is also the nephew of TMC chairperson and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, campaigned for Shatrughan Sinha and said, “This vote is not for election, but for protest.”
The TMC, which is trying to build itself as a national alternative to the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of the 2024 parliamentary elections, has embraced rising prices, especially the fuel problem, as a weapon to fight for two seats.
The BJP has fielded its South Asansol MLA Agnimitra Paul for the Lok Sabha seat. Left nominee is Perth Mukherjee.
Party leader Jiten Tiwari said, “People are dissatisfied with the TMC – the way they behaved during the municipal elections, the way Babul did not perform, all this will affect the vote.”
The BJP and other opposition parties have repeatedly accused the ruling Trinamool Congress of violence against its leaders and activists, especially in the run-up to the elections.
The Union Home Ministry has deployed five additional companies of paramilitary forces in the polling centers of Baliganj and Asansol. Earlier, 133 companies were sent.
The Baliganj assembly seat has long been a TMC base. The late Subrata Mukherjee won last year’s election with 70% of the vote.
This time the party candidate is Babul Supriya. Observers say the competition will not be too difficult for him. But some wards in Baliganj are Muslim-dominated and the Left has fielded Saira Shah Halim, niece of veteran actor Nasiruddin Shah, they have mentioned. BJP candidate Keya Ghosh.
The Left is trying to garner minority votes, and this, according to analysts, could erode some grassroots support. Also, some TMC workers have been reported to be dissatisfied with Supriya’s choice as he, too long ago, launched several verbal attacks on the party and Mamata while he was in the BJP.
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