Once beaten twice shy. After 32 years, Mamata Banerjee has tasted a defeat during the recent assembly elections. She jumped into the fray in Nandigram and lost it to her once-trusted lieutenant Suvendu Adhikari. Now when she has got the second chance to enter the Vidhan Sabha, she is pulling out all stops. A battery of TMC leaders has been given responsibilities to nurture the constituency.
Never before her party (TMC) had to come up in such a big way to provide support to her in her own electoral battle, that too in her citadel. She has won from Kolkata South constituency for eight times (1984-89, 1991-2011), and one of its assembly segments Bhabanipur twice before (2011 and 2016).
If not elected to the assembly by November 5, the Chief Minister will have to resign. So, despite Covid-19 miseries, her chief secretary requested the Election Commission of India to hold a by-poll in Bhabanipur assembly constituency to avoid ‘administrative exigencies’, and the request was adhered to.
Though considered safe for her, Mamata Banerjee’s game plan has slightly been jeopardised by BJP fielding Priyanka Tibrewal, an advocate and vice president of the party’s youth wing in West Bengal, from the constituency. Priyanka is a non-Bengali, and the constituency has nearly 40 per cent non-Bengali voters. Keeping in mind ‘the outsider’ campaign by the TMC during the r assembly elections, now it is time for assuaging the hurt feelings of those people of Bengal whose mother tongue is not Bengali.
Again, Tiberwal has shot to fame recently as the lead petitioner and pleader in the post-poll violence cases in Calcutta High Court. Though the state government had rubbished the allegation of post-poll violence earlier, the court ordered a CBI probe for cases of death or alleged rape. Thanks to this decision, the CBI is now knocking on the doors of many people across several districts, creating panic among some of the ordinary TMC workers.
Some BJP leaders like Suvendu Adhikary are trying their best to show post-poll violence as ‘attacks on those who believe in Sanatan dharma’ by the others. Whether it will give any advantage to Tiberwal in Bhabanipur is not known.
So the TMC is not taking any chance for the electoral battle in South Kolkata. Some veteran leaders like Firhad Hakim, Partha Chatterjee, Arup Biswas, and Madan Mitra have been given charge of the campaign in various civic wards of the constituency, while the ex-councillors of Kolkata Municipal Corporation (now continuing as coordinators after their term ended) have been asked to spend time in the wards. Mala Roy, the local MP (Kolkata South) has been asked to consolidate the women votes.
Mamata Banerjee has made it clear that she is not taking the contest lightly. On last Wednesday, she said, “This election will be a challenge. This will be a big game ahead of the 2024 elections.”
(The author Diptendra Raychaudhuri is a senior journalist based in Kolkata. He has a wide range of experience in covering West Bengal politics and has authored several books)