Battlelines have been drawn for the June 2 bypoll to the Howrah Lok Sabha seat in West Bengal which will be an acid test for the ruling Trinamool Congress in the backdrop of the Saradha scam which has defrauded thousands besides the upcoming panchayat elections.
The main contest will be a triangular one between the TMC,Congress and the CPI(M) though there are 13 candidates in the fray.
The Trinamool Congress has fielded former India football captain Prasun Banerjee while Congress has fielded lawyer Sanatan Mukherjee and CPI(M) Sridip Bhattacherjee,a former party district secretary.
Though BJP is not contesting on the instructions of national president Rajnath Singh,seen as a move to keep the door ajar for the TMC,a former NDA ally,a local BJP leader,Ranjan Pal,is in the fray as an Independent.
The Congress and the TMC,which have fallen apart,had fought the LS seat jointly in 2009. The TMC had emerged winner.
In 2009,the BJP had bagged 37,723 votes in the seat,which was 3.8 per cent of the total votes polled.
Victory in the seat would give a boost to the Mamata Banerjee government which has been tackling the fallout of the Saradha scam with the announcement of a Rs 500 crore corpus to financially assist the defrauded and the setting up of SIT and an inquiry commission.
The CPI(M) is hoping to cash in on the division of votes between the TMC and the Congress,the latter having a strong presence in the constituency,an industrial and rural one,with a total electorate of of 14,47,174.
For the Congress the by-election is important as a defeat could mean a setback for the party before the panchayat polls as well as next year’s Lok Sabha elections.
The election has been necessitated by the death of TMC MP Ambika Banerjee.