Prospect of division in votes uncomfortable factor for Bandopadhyay
As West Bengal witnessed a four-cornered battle in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, the most fierce one will take place perhaps in North Kolkata constituency on May 12, in the heart of the city.
Locked in the fray are Sudip Bandopadhyay, the sitting MP of the Trinamool Congress, CPI(M) leader Rupa Bagchi, Congress heavyweight candidate Somen Mitra and BJP state President Rahul Sinha.
Bandopadhyay, a former Union Minister of state, has long been a close associate of Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee and is one of the top leaders of the party.
The constituency is dominated by Hindi speaking people, which constitute 58 per cent of the total electorate and a sizable section of them belong to the Marwari community that controls the city's wholesale trade and business.
In the 2009 elections, Trinamool's leader in Lok Sabha Sudip Bandyopadhyay won the seat defeating his nearest CPI(M) rival Mohammad Selim by a little less than 100,000 votes and as per the 2011 assembly poll, the margin is now more than 2,60,000 votes.
But the situation has changed this time, primarily because of the presence of Somen Mitra, the heavyweight candidate of the Congress, who recently crossed over from the Trinamool Congress. The Congress, which was the electoral partner of the Trinamool in 2009, has a traditional vote bank in this area besides the fact that Mitra commands a significant mass following. It is generally believed that Mitra is out to cut into Bandopadhyay's vote.
However, Bandopadhyay believes that Mitra has 'a little control' over Chowringhee assembly segment. But a band of fiercely loyal supporters have stepped up Mitra's campaign this time. He complains that Somen Mitra is being 'over exaggerated,' and points out that all seven assembly segments in the constituency -- Chowringhee, Shyampukur, Jorabagan, Entally, Beliaghata, Maniktala and Cossipore-Belgachhia belong to the AITC.
Observing that the Somen Mitra factor was being over exaggerated,' Bandopadhyay points at all seven assembly segments in the constituency -- Chowringhee, Shyampukur, Jorabagan, Entally, Beliaghata, Maniktala and Cossipore-Belgachhia, all of which belong to AITC. But the fact lies, in 2011 assembly elections, the AITC had the support of Congress,and Somen Mitra too was in TMC. In fact, the Chowringhee assembly is still held by Somen Mitra's wife and and rebel TMC leader, Sikha Mitra.
There is another factor that Bandopadhyay does not want to accept.
Traditionally, BJP has always had a comfort zone in Kolkata North. It was the home to veteran leader Vishnukant Sashtri and also houses the RSS and BJP state headquarters. Many believe that the 37,000-odd votes it secured in Kolkata North in 2009 could increase manifold this timea because of the BJP emerging as a viable alternative at least among a section of Hindi speaking people.
"Why should I believe Opposition parties have more votes in North Kolkata compared to Trinamool, when Mamata Banerjee has shown her capacity in the last Panchayat or Municipality election? In 2009, out of the 8 lakh votes polled, I received about 4 lakh votes. So the other 4 lakh votes will be divided between rest of the parties. In terms of percentage, I am confident I will win more than 60 per cent of the votes this time,' he says.
Like Bandopadhyay, Mitra, the old war horse of the Congress and an astute strategist, also has is own number game. So does have his BJP opponent, who hopes to pull a big surprise, and the CPI(M). The end result will, however, be known only on May 16.
(Posted on 10-05-2014)