Sonia, Rahul, Rajnath, Mamata campaign in Bengal's second phase poll
The cacophony of high pitched campaign came to an end today in six West Bengal constituencies spread over five districts, where second phase of Lok Sabha polls will be held on April 24.
The constituencies which go to polls are Raiganj, Balurghat, Maldaha Uttar, Maldaha Dakshin, Jangipur and Murshidabad. Involved in the fray are 78 candidates representing various political parties, including the ruling Trinamool Congress, opposition Left Front partners CPI(M) and RSP, the BJP and the Samajwadi Party.
Prominent among the contestants are Union Minister Deepa Dasmunsi, who defends her Raiganj seat on Congress ticket and her main rival, Left Front nominee Mohammad Selim of the CPI(M), Pradesh Congress leader Omprakash Mishra besides theatre personality Arpita Ghosh from Balurghat; West Bengal Youth Congress President Mausam Benazir Noor, who seeks re-election from Maldaha Uttar constituency taking on, among others, popular Bengali band singer Soumitra Roy (Trinamool Congress), sitting MP from Maldaha Dakshin constituency.
Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury and President Pranab Mukherjee's son Abhijit Mukherjee, who seeks re-election as a Congress nominee from Jangipur, are the other contestants.
Thursday's electoral battle is crucial for the Congress as it is being fought in its long standing strongholds. Five of the six seats put on stake in this phase belong to the Congress and one to the Left Front. However, with the Trinamool Congress pushing hard to broaden its space in North Bengal, the Congress faces the challenge to retain its forts. In 2009, the Congress and the Trinamool Congress won the elections fighting the Left Front in an alliance. In Jangipur, Abhijit Mukherjee won by elections in 2012 after his father vacated the seat and went to the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The Trinamool Congress didn't field any candidate against him as a show of gesture. But this time Ms Mamata Banerjee's party has nominated Haji Nurul Islam in Jangipur posing the threat to split the votes of Mr Mukherjee, who had won by a wafer thin margin last time.
Also in Raiganj, the AITC took the battle to the door of Union Minister of state Deepa Dasmunsi by nominating her brother-in-law Satya Ranjan Dasmunsi as its candidate. Besides taking on formidable CPI(M) candidate Mohammad Selim, Ms Dasmunsi, wife of former Congress heavyweight Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, has to face opposition from within the family. Balurghat, a marginal seat that witnessed Left Front candidate's victory by a little more than 5,000 votes in 2009, will also see an absorbing battle this time with RSP nominee Bimalendu Sarkar defending the seat for his party against the formidable Congress and Trinamool Congress candidates.
Also in Murshidabad, sitting MP Abdul Mannan Hossain has a tough job in defending his seat as he faces both the CPI(M) and the Trinamool. Last time Mr Hossain won by a margin of little more than 35,000 votes. The battle in Malda North, a traditional Congress seat, is also set to witness an interesting fight with the sitting Congress MP Mousam Noor being pitted against popular band singer Soumitra Roy, a son of the soil, besides CPI(M)'s Khagen Murmu. Last time, Ms Noor won against her CPI(M) rival Sailen Sarker by a margin of 60,000 votes. In all these constituencies, the BJP has a captive vote bank and in the event of a considerable rise in BJP's vote share may upset many calculations. The Congress, however, is on a safer wicket in Maldaha South constituency where sitting Congress MP A H Khan Chowdhury won by 1.36 lakh votes in 2009.
(Posted on 22-04-2014)