Monday morning finds Moushumi Gogoi, a resident of Gohaingaon village in Assam’s Jorhat district, chatting away at a tea stall. But ask her about the elections, and her smile falters. “We wanted Gaurav da,” says Moushumi, a booth-level Congress worker. “He’s the obvious choice, he’s Tarun Gogoi’s son, after all.”
The previous evening, the Congress announced its candidate for the Titabor constituency — represented for two decades by former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who died in November last year. The ticket went not to Gaurav but Bhaskar Jyoti Barua, a local businessman and first-time politician.
She identified herself as a “Hindu Brahmin” and chanted verses from the Chandi Path, said she need not be told about Bengal by “people coming from Rajasthan and Gujarat”, made tea at a roadside stall, cited the work done by her in her previous constituency Bhabanipur, and declared, “Bhulte pari nijer naam, bhulbo nako Nandigram (I can forget my name, but never forget Nandigram).”
With Nandigram set to be the most high-voltage contest of the coming Assembly election, between Mamata Banerjee and her former close aide Suvendu Adhikari, the Trinamool chief on Tuesday held her first meeting in the constituency after the declaration of the polls. Addressing booth-level workers, she said she would be filing her nomination from Nandigram on Wednesday.
State BJP secretary Sabyasachi Dutta is the party’s MLA from Rajarhat New Town Assembly constituency. He has also served as the first Mayor of Bidhannagar (2015-2019), till he resigned from the post to join the BJP in the presence of then BJP national president Amit Shah. He was appointed as secretary of the West Bengal unit of the BJP in June 2020.
Dutta started his political career as a member of the Congress party and went on to join the All India Trinamool Congress in the late 1990s. He was elected councillor in the Bidhannagar Municipality for the first time in the 2000 municipal elections, and then got re-elected in the 2005 and 2010 polls. In 2011, he was elected MLA from Rajarhat New Town constituency.
In a party with few stars beyond the Centre, he holds his own. In a government that he doesn’t lead, he is sometimes credited with commanding more power than the Chief Minister. In a region that Delhi only infrequently remembers, he is a name with the most recall.
And, Himanta Biswa Sarma is just starting. Having got a ticket from the BJP to contest from his constituency Jalukbari, despite protestations otherwise, the 52-year-old is back in the CM sweepstakes. Can the party that he almost single-handedly hauled to power in 2016 in Assam deny him the prize he has long sought, in case of a win?
The former No. 2 of Mamata Banerjee, 66-year-old Mukul Roy is among the chief architects of the BJP’s slow and steady build-up in West Bengal. This includes chipping away at the Trinamool’s edifice, by helping the BJP wean away leaders from the party.
The party’s national vice-president, Roy is now part of every frame in the BJP’s Bengal campaign. If there is resentment over not being counted as among the chief ministerial hopefuls, Roy hasn’t shown it, as he asserts the BJP’s target: “Iss bar 200 paar (This time, more than 200 seats).” The West Bengal Assembly has 294 MLAs.
Roy started his political career as a Youth Congress leader, around the same time as Mamata Banerjee was part of the outfit. He was among the founding members of the All India Trinamool Congress when Mamata floated it in January 1998 after splitting from the Congress. Soon Roy emerged as the party’s face in Delhi, and in 2006, was made its general secretary and earned a berth in the Rajya Sabha. In the UPA II government, he served initially as Minister of State, Shipping, before becoming Railways Minister — a portfolio Mamata held till she moved to Bengal as the CM.
Assembly elections will be held in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Kerala and Assam at the end of this month and beginning of April. Results will be declared in May.