The biggest coup de theatre on Bengal’s political stage was performed by the All India Congress Committee when it announced the name of Deepa Das Munshi as its official nominee to fight the mighty Mamata Banerjee of Trinamool Congress in the Bhawanipore assembly constituency in South Kolkata. When the AICC’s announcement came on March 16, Professor O P Mishra – the WBPCC general secretary and one of the chief architects of the Congress-CPM electoral alliance had completed two rounds of campaigning as the Congress’s candidate for Bhawanipore. There were a couple of wall writings too, in Bhawaniore constituency, declaring his candidature and on March 15, he had taken out a joint rally with CPM workers in the area.
In what seems to be a political coup within the Congress, Deepa Das Munshi upstaged O P Mishra – a professor of Jadvapur university of long standing and a Congress think tank. The embarrassment was glaring as Professor Mishra had to issue a public statement to explain what had made him think that he was the official nominee for the Bhawanipore seat – based on an announcement by the West Bengal Pradesh Congress chief – Adhir Chowdhury on March 8. Truly, the AICC was the final authority to clear the names of candidates for the state assembly polls and Adhir Chowdhury had no business to short circuit it. Not only Professor Mishra, but the party too, had to pay dearly for the mistake.
What transpired within the AICC in choosing Deepa over Mishra is not known but one would guess that the AICC (read Rahul Gandhi who was personally overseeing Bengal list) might have been reminded of the last 2014 Lok Sabha polls when Mamata Banerjee had put up a relative of Das Munshi to fight against Deepa Das Munshi, making it a four cornered contest in Raiganj LS seat. Others in the fray were Md Selim of the CPM and Nimoo Bhowmick of BJP. The results proved that it was a master stroke by Didi to have put up a Das Munshi – Pabitra Ranjan Das MUnshi who pulled in 192,000 votes – good enough to split the votes. Deepa lost to Md. Selim of CPM by a slender margin of just about 1634 votes in the seat. Top Congress leaders in West Bengal attribute this “old wound” as a reason for the Congress to bring in Deepa Das Munshi all the way from Raiganj to Bhawanipore in Kolkata to fight Mamata Banerjee.
Deepa Das Munshi has moved in a house in Bhawanipore where she lives in her early university days. She has also begun to meet local CPM leaders and party cadres in a bid to mobilize them in her support though she had been one of the staunchest anti –alliance leaders in the Congress and along with Manas Bhuniya and propagated an “Ekla Cholo” (go it alone) policy. She has suddenly found merit in the alliance and is trying to capitalize on it.
Political analysts, however, do not see any threat to Mamata Banerjee having a smooth sail despite Deepa Das Munshi and the presence of the other heavyweight BJP candidate in Netaji kin – Chandra Bose. Deepa’s entry into the scene is being seen as a source of more fun and frolic than real fight. Deepa’s strength lies in her determination to fight till the end. She has nothing g to lose. Having analyzed the constituency and the municipal wards under it, independent observers say that the anti- TMC votes will be split between Chandra Bose and Deepa Das Munshi, making the passage easy for Didi.