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BJP’s giant killer in Dum Dum battle royale

Of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal,this is one constituency to watch out for. While the rest 41 will see straight fight between the CPM-led Left Front on one hand and the Congress/Trinamool on the other...

Written by Sabyasachi Bandopadhyay | Kolkata |
March 25, 2009 2:08:15 am

In the only seat to see a triangular fight,all eyes are on BJP’s Tapan Sikder who has routed CPM twice here

Of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal,this is one constituency to watch out for. While the rest 41 will see straight fight between the CPM-led Left Front on one hand and the Congress/Trinamool on the other,Dum Dum is the only constituency that will see a triangular clash between the CPM,Trinamool and the BJP.

While the saffron party does not have much to write home about in West Bengal,its decision to field Tapan Sikder,the former Union minister of state for telecommunication who rejoined the party just one month ago,has made the polls here the battle royale. Sikder has the distinction of routing the CPM from here twice — while in 1998,he worsted Nirmal Chatterjee by 1.36 lakh votes,Sikder dealt a second blow to the Leftist party by humbling its candidate Anil Bhattacharya by 1.37 lakh votes in 1999.

This time around,Sikder will be pitted against sitting CPM MP Amitava Nandy and Trinamool candidate Saugata Roy,whose fortunes depend on how many votes the former union minister polls.

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Nandy had defeated Sikder in 2004 Lok Sabha polls by over 96,000 votes. But Sikder,who had joined Bhartiya Janashakti in 2005 only to return to the BJP a month ago,seems in high spirits.

“Last time,it was widespread rigging by the CPM that helped Nandy scrape through. But what has he done? I spent the entire Rs 5 crore of my MPLAD for development in my constituency. In fact,in 1998,I got Rs 1.5 crore that was unspent by the earlier MP Nirmal Chatterjee and I spent that amount too. I gave money to at least 485 schools,more than 500 youth clubs,development of roads and provision for drinking water. In fact,my biggest strength is that I am a tested candidate. People saw my work and I am telling them — you vote for Tapan Sikder who worked for you. Don’t look at the party I am with but Sikder as a man,” he said.

Though Sikder has an edge on account of work he has done here during his stint as a union minister,there is a flip side to it. Many of his supporters who left the BJP for Bhartiya Janashakti are yet to return. “I don’t have many party people with me. But those who are there are dedicated,” the former minister said.

Another worry for Sikder is that after the delimitation of his constituency,the entire upmarket Salt Lake area has been ceded to Barasat constituency. “I used to get a lead of about 16,000 votes there. However,we will have to cope with the reality,” he said,adding steep price rise of all essential commodities would bring about the ouster of the UPA government. “Parliamentary elections are fought on national issues and this time around,it will be the price rise that will be the nemesis of this government. And people have not forgotten that this government was supported by the Marxists for more than four years,” Sikder said.

Trinamool candidate Saugata Roy admits Sikder will be a key factor in this election. “Well,he will get about 40,000 votes. But I believe he will cut into Nandy’s vote bank as he has made himself most unpopular with the people in the last five years,” Roy said.

For him,the battle will be tough as his party has virtually no presence in this constituency. “We have not a single municipality,nor even a panchayat. In fact,I did not want to contest from this constituency. But you will have to obey party’s order,” Roy,currently an MLA from Bongaon,said.

Nandy,however,seems unconcerned. “Neither of them is a factor for me. If you ask me about spending of my MPLAD funds,I have spent 102 per cent of it. They have no ideals,no principles. We are working for a government of the Third Front. That is our ultimate goal,” he said.

Fight for Dum Dum
* Amitava Nandy: CPM
* Saugata Roy: Trinamool
* Tapan Sikder: BJP
* Number of voters: 11.64 lakh
* Number of booths: 1,150

Poll to be held on May 13

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