An upbeat BJP and a wary Trinamool Congress head into a fierce contest for two West Bengal assembly seats on September 13. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has deployed 10 ministers, the Trinamool Congress’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha and its general secretary, and celebrities on the bypoll campaign, while Amit Shah, who is arriving next week, leads the BJP list of central and state campaigners.
Last week, Mamata reportedly turned a cabinet meeting into a party meeting and assigned Basirhat South constituency to ministers Jyotipriya Mullick, Soumen Mahapatra, Rajiv Banerjee, Moloy Ghatak and Arup Roy, and Chowringhee constituency to Partha Chatterjee, Firhad Hakim, Shashi Panja, Arup Biswas and Madan Mitra. The ministers are from various districts. The party’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha, Sudip Bandopadhyay, too is in Chowringhee, where his wife is contesting, while party general secretary Mukul Roy is in overall charge of the twin campaigns.
Mamata made her wariness clear at a recent interview to 24 Ghanta channel when she said, “They (BJP) have become so arrogant. They said they would get all 42 Lok Sabha seats. Let them get five seats first.”
The stakes are high because of the BJP’s performance in the Lok Sabha polls. It had led Basirhat South segment by 30,000 votes. In Chowringhee segment, the BJP’s Rahul Sinha finished third in a close contest with Sudip Bandopadhyay (who won the Lok Sabha seat) and Somen Mitra of the Congress, who led the segment that was then held by his wife Shikha.
In Chowringhee, Sudip’s wife Nayana faces the BJP’s Ritesh Tiwari; in Basirhat South, the Trinamool has fielded footballer Dipendu Biswas against the BJP’s Shamik Bhattacharya, who had led here in the Lok Sabha polls. “Nobody can say for sure until the results are out, but I have great faith in the voters here,” a confident Bhattacharya said.
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“We will have to see how we can stop the BJP,” said minister Soumen Mahaparta, who is from East Midnapore. “I will be in Basirhat for the next few days and go door to door to convince voters that achche din has turned into bure din.” Echoed Rajiv Banerjee, who is from Howrah, “We have to win the seat back. The BJP has to be stopped at any cost.”
At Chowringhee, Nayana Bandopadhyay says she is being helped by senior party leaders on her campaign. “The strategy is being chalked out. There will be a concerted campaign by senior leaders and ministers,” she told The Indian Express.