Kharagpur Sadar, the urban Assembly constituency of Kharagpur, has never been won by a ruling party since 1977. But on Thursday, the trend was reversed when Trinamool Congress’s Pradip Sarkar won the seat by defeating BJP’s Premchandra Jha with a handsome margin of 20,853 votes. Sarkar, the current chairman of Kharagpur municipality, bagged 72,893 votes whereas Jha got 52,040 votes. Left Front supported Congress candidate Chittaranjan Mandal, however, polled 22,631 votes.
Once a Congress bastion, which was represented by one person — Gyan Singh Sohanpal also popularly known as ‘Chacha’ — for 10 times, the constituency turned saffron in 2016 as the urban voters elected Dilip Ghosh, the state BJP chief, who defeated Sohanpal by over 4,000 votes.
In May 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Ghosh went to win Medinipur Lok Sabha seat with a margin of over 90,000 votes; and in Kharagpur Sadar Assembly segment alone, which falls in Medinipur parliamentary constituency, he had carved out a lead of over 45,000 votes.
With TMC winning the Assembly seat by over 20,000 votes this time, it means that the ruling party polled over 65,000 more votes or 28 per cent of the total vote share than it had polled a few months ago.
TMC leaders, with whom The Indian Express spoke to after the results were declared, credited the win to two factors — 38-year-old Pradip Sarkar’s clean image and voters’ unhappiness with the BJP over the slump in the economy. They also credited political strategist Prashant Kishor, who was hired by TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee after the party’s below-par performance in the Lok Sabha elections.
“Here at least Prashant Kishor’s strategy worked. Pradip Sarkar is a young and enthusiastic candidate. So, the young generation voted for him. On the other hand, people have rejected BJP’s economic policy,” a senior TMC leader in Kharagpur said.
Sarkar’s local connect also in handy for the party. As chairman of Kharagpur Municipality, he is a popular figure and residents praise him for carrying out development work in the town.
For both the BJP, the battle for Kharagpur was a prestigious one. Therefore for the TMC, wresting the seat from the BJP and too vacated by state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh came as the icing on the cake.
BJP’s loss here is also a personal loss for Ghosh who had been camping in Kharagpur and campaigned vigorously for the party candidate.
A senior BJP leader on Thursday said that the party lost in the last lap because of two reasons — “our candidate’s image was not very good and second the Congress-CPM candidate polled a good number of votes, cutting the anti-Trinamool votes”.
The Congress, though came third, saw a silver lining in the defeat. “We were defeated by the huge money power of the BJP and TMC. But more importantly, we increased our vote share. We will continue our fight against BJP and TMC unitedly,” said Congress leader Shuvankar Chakraborty. Notably, in the last Lok Sabha elections held a few months ago, the surprise won of the BJP was attributed to the shrinking vote share of the Congress and the Left Front.
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