Despite Trinamool Congress’ thumping win in the state polls, Malda district continues to be Mamata Banerjee’s weakest link. Among the 12 Assembly constituencies in Malda, Trinamool could not win even a single seat. While the Congress-CPM alliance won 11 seats, in a first, BJP emerged victorious from Baishnabnagar.
Because Malda is considered to be her Achilles heel, Mamata had kicked off her electoral campaign from English Bazar in Malda town.
Even then, the fight ahead was visibly tough, as local leaders, including cabinet minister Krishnendu Narayan, struggled to bring people to Mamata’s first and only rally in Malda. An unhappy CM was forced to address a semi-filled stadium, where she lashed out at the newly-formed Congress-Left alliance, calling it opportunistic.
- GST, demonetisation, Independence Day: Mamata-Centre spats set tone for panchayat, Lok Sabha elections
- Rajasthan hacking: Leaders meet Afrazul kin, TMC to raise issue in Parliament
- West Bengal 2018 Panchayat Polls: Mamata Banerjee to hold meetings with district officials over development projects
- Infighting cost 10-12 seats: Didi ‘dissects’ results, TMC
- West Bengal elections 2016: Despite TMC sweep, some ministers lose seats
- Mamata Banerjee begins campaign from Congress bastion, targets its ties with Left
But while the rest of Bengal listened, Malda didn’t. The two ministers in Mamata’s cabinet from Malda, arch rivals Sabitri Mitra and Krishnendu Narayan, both lost their seats on Thursday.
Malda once again reposed its faith on Congress and the Ghani Khan Choudhury clan. While two members of the family, Abu Hasem Ghani Khan Choudhury (Ghani Khan’s brother), is Congress MP from South Malda, niece Mausam Mausam Noor is the party MP from North Malda.
Abu Hasem’s son Isha Khan Choudhury, the outgoing MLA from Baishnabnagar, was the Congress nominee from Sujapur — the Ghani Khan home constituency. He won against his uncle, another Ghani Khan brother, Abu Nasar Khan Choudhury— the Trinamool candidate.
Besides Abu Nasar, his niece Shehnaz Qadri had secured a Trinamool ticket from Ratua. She lost to Congress’ Samar Mukherjee.
Like in Darjeeling, where Mamata had backed former GJM leader Harka Bahadur Chhetri to break the monopoly of the Morcha, she pushed forward the two Khan Choudhry family members to represent Trinamool. In both cases, her move backfired.
Through Baishnabnagar, meanwhile, the BJP on Thursday made its entry into Malda politics. A Muslim-dominated area, Malda till now was out of bounds for the BJP.
Earlier this year, a mob of Muslims burnt down the Kaliachak police station ostensibly in retaliation to remarks made by Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha leader Kamlesh Tiwari against Prophet Mohammad. Later, it came to light, that the attack may have been used as a ruse by criminal elements in the area to destroy records kept at the police station and also to steal arms and poppy seeds.
But this did not stop the BJP from using the incident as an election platform, highlighting the law and order crisis in the district, even as BJP leaders in Malda admitted that the riot was not violent. The incident helped the BJP turn Hindu Left and Congress supporters towards it. Baishnabnagar is the only constituency in Malda where Hindus outnumber Muslims — by 6,000 votes.