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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Bhabanipur Assembly Bypoll: TMC under pressure to meet its own expectations

In what will be a triangular contest between the Trinamool, BJP and the CPM, the ruling party is optimistic of delivering a handsome win, thereby ensuring that she remains chief minister.

By: Express News Service | Kolkata |
September 10, 2021 5:02:01 am
Bhabanipur goes into poll mode. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is contesting the seat. (Express Photo: Partha Paul)

While the stakes are high for Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee to win her home constituency Bhabanipur in the September 30 bypoll, the Opposition is keen to pull out all stops to ensure that it is not a cakewalk for her.

In what will be a triangular contest between the Trinamool, BJP and the CPM, the ruling party is optimistic of delivering a handsome win, thereby ensuring that she remains chief minister. However, she is likely to face a stiff challenge from Left Front candidate Srijeeb Biswas, a CPM leader and a local advocate. The BJP, according to sources, might name another advocate, Priyanka Tibrewal, as its nominee against the Trinamool chief.

However, the sense in the ruling camp is that its supremo will win big on her home turf. A senior Trinamool leader said, “Even if Didi (as Mamata is known locally) doesn’t campaign here for a single day, she will win Bhabanipur as this is a stronghold of the Trinamool Congress and she is a local resident.”

However, while confident of winning, the Trinamool faces a fair share of challenges in this bypoll battle. Firstly, in the Assembly polls held earlier this year, its Bhabanipur nominee Shobandeb Chattopadhayay trounced his nearest rival, BJP’s Rudranil Ghosh, by over 28,000 votes. The task before the party now is to surpass this lead in the ensuing bypoll and win by a record margin.

Secondly, though the Trinamool won Bhabanipur comfortably, it had trailed in two wards of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) and stares at the challenge of overcoming the deficit this time.

Another senior Trinamool leader said, “It won’t look good for us if Mamata Banerjee wins by a fewer margin of votes or trails even in one or two wards. Hence, we have to win the Bhabanipur constituency by a record margin, with handsome leads in every booth.”

To make this happen, the ruling party has decided to throw in several of its heavyweight leaders to plan their poll strategy and organise campaigns in the area. Among these top leaders are Bobby Hakim, Subrata Baksi, Subrata Mukherjee, Shobhandev Chatterjee, Kalyan Banerjee and Mala Roy, among others.

Bhabanipur has a mixed demographic profile, with Marwaris, Gujaratis, Punjabis and other non-Bengali communities accounting for 40 percent of its population. Being home to a significant section of non-Bengali voters, it has certain mini votebanks which the BJP may consider its own. Wary of ceding ground to its rival in a constituency that has a cosmopolitan mix of people, the Trinamool has also planned to unleash its non-Bengali leaders to win over the Hindi-speaking voters.

Apart from its top leaders, a bunch of students and youth leaders will also play a key role in canvassing for the Trinamool. Also, a team from I-PAC, the organisation headed by poll strategist Prashant Kishor, will also go door-to-door to campaign for the CM.

The constituency is already dotted with wall graffiti, posters, banners and festoons of the ruling party where Mamata is described as ‘Ghorer Meye’ (like family). In fact, the catchphrase that the Trinamool is counting on to deliver a big win for its supremo goes as, ‘Bhabanipur tar ghorer meyekei chay’ (Bhabanipur wants its own daughter).

Whether the strategy brings the desired dividends to the Trinamool will be known on October 3, the counting day. However, the party has set sights on laying the groundwork for Mamata to plan a run for Delhi in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls by delivering a huge mandate in Bhabanipur.

Underlining the importance of the bypoll, the TMC chief said at a workers’ meet on Wednesday, “This bypoll and the (forthcoming) municipal elections will decide how we fare in the Lok Sabha polls.”

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