THE RULING Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Thursday won all the three Assembly bypolls, wresting Kharagpur Sadar and Kaliaganj from the BJP and Congress respectively and retaining Karimpur. Calling it a mandate against NRC, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said it was a vote against the BJP’s “arrogance”.
The BJP emerged second in all the three constituencies, including Kharagpur Sadar which was seen as its stronghold. The seat was earlier held by state BJP president Dilip Ghosh, before he was elected to the Lok Sabha from Medinipur, which includes Kharagpur Sadar assembly segment.
In the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year, the BJP had recorded a lead of around 46,000 votes in Kharagpur Sadar assembly segment, and around 57,000 votes in Kaliaganj, which is part of the Raiganj Lok Sabha seat represented by the BJP’s Debasree Chaudhuri.
Two of the BJP candidates blamed a “scare” over NRC, and said the party had failed to explain the issue to the people.
In Kharagpur Sadar, TMC candidate Pradip Sarkar defeated BJP’s Prem Chandra Jha by a margin of 20,853 votes. In 2016, Ghosh had won this seat by a margin of 6,309 votes.
In Kaliaganj, TMC’s Tapan Deb Singha defeated the BJP’s Kamal Chandra Sarkar by 2,414 votes. In Karimpur, TMC’s Bimalendu Sinha Roy defeated BJP’s Joy Prakash Majumder by 23,910 votes.
The Left-Congress alliance candidates came a distant third in all the three seats, including Kaliaganj, which was won by Congress in 2016 and 2011.
“We got Hindu votes, Rajbonshi votes, minority votes, Adivasi votes and all others. Even in Kharagpur, we got non-Bengali votes. People have lived here for generations… They want to live peacefully. So many years after independence, if you ask someone to prove citizenship, is it right? Suddenly, if someone says you have no place here… NRC is one of the main reasons why people rejected the BJP. The BJP always uses divisive politics and created panic in the name of NRC,” said Chief Minister and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee.
“In 21 years, since the formation of our party, we have never won Kharagpur Sadar or Kaliaganj. In the Lok Sabha polls, the EVMs were manipulated… Still, we had to overcome huge leads in Kharagpur and Kaliaganj. We doubled our lead in Karimpur. This is a vote against the BJP’s arrogance and desperation to come to power,” she said. “The BJP is talking about coming to power in 2021. Let them first suffer this jolt in 2019,” she said.
“It is indeed a scare over NRC. We failed to reach out to people and make them understand the issue. People are scared of the NRC… All minority votes went to the TMC. They got a large section of Rajbonshi and Hindu votes too because of the NRC scare,” said Kamal Chandra Sarkar, BJP candidate from Kaliaganj.
“NRC scare was a factor. TMC went door-to-door, spreading misinformation about NRC. Another factor was that the Left votes went to the TMC,” said Joy Prakash Majumder, BJP candidate from Karimpur.
“We have to evaluate whether the NRC was the issue. In the Lok Sabha elections, it was not a factor. The TMC was able to mislead people on the NRC issue in some areas. Generally, the ruling party wins the bypolls. Let Mamata Banerjee be satisfied with three seats. We will see what happens in 2021. Then, it will be Modi all over Bengal,” said Dilip Ghosh, state BJP president. In the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had won 18 seats in West Bengal, up from two in 2014, while the TMC got 22 seats, down from 34 in 2014.
“We went to the people and apologised. During the panchayat polls in Kaliaganj and some other areas, there were some excesses by a section of party leaders. We told people that we don’t support such party leaders. People have trusted us,” said Suvendu Adhikari, State Transport Minister, who, along with State Forest Minister Rajib Banerjee and MP Mahua Moitra, was among those who led the TMC’s bypoll campaign.
In Kharagpur Sadar (West Midnapore district) and Karimpur (Nadia district), bypolls were held as their MLAs — BJP’s Dilip Ghosh and TMC’s Mahua Moitra respectively — contested and won the Lok Sabha polls, while Kaliaganj (Uttar Dinajpur district) MLA Pramatha Nath Ray (Congress) died earlier this year.