Banking on father's good work, president's son hopes to win
Facing a tough contest in the Jangipur Lok Sabha constituency in West Bengal, President Pranab Mukherjee's son and Congress candidate Abhijit is banking on his father's "good work" and his advice to turn the battle in his favour.
"My father has advised me two things - have plenty of water and reach out to the voters. I am following his advice," Abhijit told IANS, ahead of Thursday's polls.
"There is lot of goodwill concerning the good work that my father did. So, I am very confident of retaining the seat," said the 54-year-old former general manager of SAIL.
Pranab Mukherjee won from the constituency near the Bangladesh border in Murshidabad district in 2004 and 2009.
Abhijit scraped through from the Muslim-majority constituency in a by-poll in 2012 by only 2,536 votes, after Pranab Mukherjee vacated the seat on being elected to the country's top office.
It signalled a sharp drop in the Congress's performance after Pranab Mukherjee won by over 1.28 lakh votes in 2009.
However, Abhijit Mukherjee claims neither the fight is tough, nor does he have any uncertainty about getting the votes of the Muslim community.
"Last time, the preparation was not good enough. Moreover, around 1.5 lakh voters, of which nearly 70-75 percent are Congress voters, live outside the state for their livelihood. They did not come to vote because it was a by-election."
"But this time, they will vote. So, I am confident," said the Congress nominee, who is locked in an 11-cornered fight, with Communist Party of India-Marxist nominee Muzaffar Hussain, Trinamool Congress candidate Haji Nurul Islam and the BJP's Samrat Ghosh as his main rivals.
One and a half years back, two pro-minority parties - Welfare Party of India and Social Democratic Party of India - cut into the vote share of the established parties by bagging the support of over 66,000 people, or nearly eight percent of the valid votes.
Apart from these two outfits, another party - Jamat-e-Seratul Mustakim - is also in the fray this time, while the Socialist Unity Centre of India-Communist candidate is also a Muslim.
It is with the Muslim vote in mind that the Trinamool shifted Haji Nurul Islam - its sitting MP from Basirhat - to Jangipur.
However, Abhijit is banking on his party's "secular credentials" to win the votes of the community.
"Muslims here are aware that BJP needs to be prevented from coming to power. They realise that only the Congress can do that. Muslim voters are grossly disillusioned with the Left and there is a growing resentment against the Trinamool," he said.
"Moreover, Muslim voters are secular and they will not vote on the basis of religion or community. They will vote for the Congress because it is a party with proven secular credentials," he said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party had surprised political pundits in 2012 by bagging over 10 percent of the valid votes. This time also, the party is hoping to continue the trend in the wake of various opinion polls indicating the BJP's resurgence in the country.
But Abhijit puts up a brave face.
"The fight is not at all tough, Jangipur is a Congress stronghold and the rival candidates have not been able to make a mark on the voters."
(Posted on 23-04-2014)