The April-May West Bengal assembly elections saw significant communal polarisation that, analysts say, contributed to Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee‘s defeat in Nandigram against Bharatiya Janata Party’s Suvendu Adhikari. Up next is the Bhabanipur bypoll on September 30. It’s Mamata’s home turf, but she is not taking any chances. The West Bengal chief minister filed her nomination on Ganesh Chaturthi. And in the past week, she has visited a Ganesh Puja, a mosque, a gurdwara and a temple.
The TMC chairperson is contesting the bypoll as she has to get elected to the state assembly within six months of taking charge as chief minister on May 5.
Mamata has been trying to woo members of the sizeable (about 40% of the population) non-Bengali communities in the area. “Everyone may have different religions, but the colour of our blood is the same. Bhabanipur represents Bengal. Here all of us stay together. Let’s protect Hindustan,” she told them.
TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee too will have a special meeting with the non-Bengali locals on Saturday.
Are people on the ground really responding to this campaign? The lanes of Bhabanipur have the answer.
The gurdwara where Mamata went is one of the most important ones of Kolkata and a large number of people come here daily.
Harmendar Singh, who is a regular visitor there, said, “She has always been by our side. She has supported the farmers’ movement. We will definitely support her. She is our daughter.”
TMC’s Sovandeb Chatterjee, who won the Bhabanipur seat in the assembly polls and has now vacated it so Mamata can contest, told News18, “Mamata is not going to temples and mosques now. She has always done this. But as the poll campaign has started, it’s good that she is going everywhere, and her personal touch definitely means a lot.”
BJP candidate for the seat Priyanka Tibrewal, however, sees this as a course correction. “Everyone should thank the BJP. At least now, they are going to temples too,” she said. “But this won’t help. People understand everything, that this is an election stunt.”
Some locals had gathered at a tea shop near Mamata’s residence in the area. “All of us live together here. We have unity in diversity. That’s why we will vote for Didi (Mamata),” they said. “She is already the chief minister.”
Out of the eight wards in the Bhabanipur assembly constituency, ward number 70 is a cause of concern for Trinamool. This is where the party kept trailing in the last couple of elections. In this year’s assembly polls, TMC’s Sovandeb Chatterjee trailed in this ward by 2,092 votes.
Many people from Odisha settled down here long back. That’s why this area is called Odia Para. The distinctive feature of this ward is that it has slums and also skyscrapers.
TMC ward leader Santosh Lal said “This ward is full of a non-Bengali population. We get the votes of the slum dwellers. But the high-rises mostly consist of Gujaratis. We don’t get votes from there. But this time we will, as we are putting in every effort.”
Roshni Mulani, a second-year graduation student and resident of the place, said, “Chances here are fifty-fifty. The Gujaratis are tilted towards PM Narendra Modi. They generally vote for him. But the Bengal government has been formed. So which way it will go is difficult to say.”Internet Explorer Channel Network