If all other seats in West Bengal disappoint us, the lotus will bloom in at least one seat, and that is Krishnanagar. This is how BJP’s Hatishala block president Idris Shaikh summed up the “Modi wave” in Bengal as he waited for former Union minster and party candidate Satyabrata Mukherjee at Goruimari village, 16 kms from Krishnanagar in Nadia district.
“In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, amidst the Mamata wave our Juluda (Satyabrata Mukherjee’s nick name) got 1.75 lakh votes. He stood third after the winner Trinamool Congress and the runner-up CPM. But now, with a Modi wave blowing across India, where some section of Muslims too have decided to vote for lotus, we are sure Juluda is going to win,” Shaikh claims.
Like the other 41 seats in Bengal, Krishnanagar, with about 15 lakh voters, is also facing a four-cornered contest between the TMC, Congress, CPM and BJP. In 2009, TMC and Congress had jointly put up Tapas Paul, who won the seat bagging 4.43 lakh votes. Satyabrata came third garnering 1.75 lakh votes.
The former union minister had earlier won the seat in 1999 when he got 43.62 per cent of votes while his main rival Dilip Chakravarty of CPM got 41.16 per cent of votes. Shaikh claims Juluda will get Muslim votes too. “About 33 per cent of voters are Muslims. It is true that they do not vote for BJP. But here Juluda has a different image. He has spent money on repairing mosques, tombs and burial grounds. He will get at least 3 to 4 per cent of Muslim votes,” Shaikh said.
Satyabrata Mukherjee too exuded confidence. “Look at the muddy road we are standing on,” the 81-year-old, who is also a Supreme Court lawyer, said pointing at the road that runs along river Jalangi flowing through the district. “Nobody has done anything to make it a pucca road. The villagers have been demanding for some pucca ghats in the Jalangi river, which is used by many people for bathing and washing clothes but nothing has been done by the previous two MPs. In fact so far as building infrastructure is concerned nothing has been done in Krishnanagar,” he said.
TMC candidate and sitting MP Tapas Pau, however, brushes aside the allegations. “I have spent Rs 22 crore out of my MP LAD fund for various projects. They include modernisation and expansion of Tehatta hospital, arranging for street lights for Krishnanagar city, irrigation projects, at least 50 ambulances, projects under PMGSY, shelters for the poor at Bethuadahari, to name a few,” Paul said.
As the the convoy of the actor-turned-politician stops at a village, Paul, who also remained a two-term MLA from Alipore constituency in Kolkata, comes out and addresses the star-struck crowd. “I am a loyal soldier of Didi and I have come here to spread the message of development. Didi has been working hard to bring about development. And now we will go to Delhi to become an important part of the new government. So please vote for Triamool,” the crowd bursts in applause.
The Congress’s Razia Ahmed, while ridiculing the claims of Paul, terms the BJP candidate as her main rival. “This is a Lok Sabha election and here local issues do not matter much. This is a fight between secularism and fanaticism, between democracy and autocracy. I hope people will understand the perils of voting for BJP, and will cast their votes for us,” Ahmed told The Indian Express at Kaligunj.
The CPM has pinned hope on division of votes. “If the BJP eats into the vote share of Congress and TMC, there is a fair chance of our candidate Shantanu Jha scraping through,” Anisur Rehman, CPM state committee member and deputy leader of Left Front, said.