By Amar Kumar Mitra Kolkata, May 6 UNI | 3 months ago

The battle in Kolkata north is the most talked about thing in Bengal, -- precisely because of Somen Mitra -- one of the few Bengal Congressmen with a mass following.

Mitra - who had been a Congress MLA for three decades from the Sealdah Assembly constituency, which is a part of the Kolkata North Lok Sabha seat - rallied behind AITC in 2009.

Mitra is not only back into the Congress fold, but unlike his fellow Congressmen-- who were unwilling to contest Lok Sabha elections -- the 'tiger' of Congress himself took up the challenge to fight the Lok Sabha elections and was the first among the four candidates to start his campaign.

Though this is the second time he is contesting as a Lok Sabha candidate, this time from the North Kolkata constituency, Mitra has an enviable record of seven Assembly election victories.

A resident of north Kolkata's Amherst Street, Mitra is trying to build a bridge with the electors of his constituency by putting stress on 'Chorda' by which nickname he is known in his constituency.

West Bengal, possibly for the first time, is set to witness a four-cornered battle this Lok Sabha election, and the most fierce one is in the heart of the city-- the North Kolkata constituency.

In the clash of titans, the sitting MP and Trinamool Congress chief whip in the Lok Sabha, Sudip Bandopadhaya, is being challenged by CPI-M's Rupa Bagchi, Congress strongman, Somen Mitra and BJP's state President, Rahul Sinha.

A sharp strategist, former PCC chief and seven-time Congress MLA, Somendra Nath Mitra (aka Somen Mitra), left the Congress in 2008. A year down the line, he became a Trinamool MP from Diamond Harbour in the outskirts of Kolkata.

Mitra's Trinamool tryst ended in September 2011, when he wrote a letter to the PM demanding action against nearly a dozen money collection companies in the state. His concerns came true with the unravelling of the Saradha scam in April 2013.

In January 2014, amidst large-scale defection from the Congress to Trinamool, Mitra came back home. He will contest the 2014 election as a Congress nominee from Kolkata (North).

Sudip Bandopadhayay believes 'Somen Mitra factor is being over exaggerated,' pointing out that all seven assembly segments in the constituency -- Chowringhee, Shyampukur, Jorabagan, Entally, Beliaghata, Maniktala and Cossipore-Belgachhia belong to the AITC. But the fact lies, in 2011 assembly elections, the AITC had the support of Congress,and Somen Mitra too was in AITC. In fact, the Chowringhee assembly is still held by Somen Mitra's wife and rebel AITC leader, Sikha Mitra.

Besides, BJP has its dedicated votebank in the Marwari pockets of Burrabazar and Posta areas of the constituency. With a so-called Narendra Modi wave and the surveys predicting a substantial increase in BJP's vote share in the state, BJP state president Rahul Sinha too has his chances.

"All my opponents are heavyweights," says CPI-M's Rupa Bagchi, a local councillor.

In the 2009 elections, Trinamool's leader in Lok Sabha Sudip Bandyopadhyay won the Kolkata North seat by a little less than 100,000 margin and as per the 2011 assembly poll, the margin is now more than 2,60,000 votes.

In an interview here, Mr Mitra said " Kolkata (North) is my home turf. People know me and can identify with the principles I stand for. However, what has to be seen is the acceptance of not just me as a candidate but also the Congress party, as both matters in election. Overall, I think the educated middle class is unhappy with lawlessness in the state.

"Be it rising incidents of crime against women, involvement of senior leaders of the ruling party in nefarious activities, or mushrooming of chit funds or deposit taking schemes, people are surely going to raise their voice," he said.

On Saradha issue, Mr Mitra said, Kunal Ghosh's (Trinamool MP) involvement was established and he has been arrested. But Ghosh also named various people of the Trinamool Congress. Are they being investigated? Not really. The Government has shielded them by denying a CBI probe. Ghosh was denied an opportunity to record his statement before the judiciary. I don't think the people of Bengal will accept such a situation.

The veteran leader, not previously familiar with social networking sites, has also opened a Facebook account recently to post regular updates on his campaign and messages.

(Posted on 07-05-2014)