In an unprecedented move, the Election Commission (EC) on Wednesday cut short campaigning for the last phase of polling in West Bengal by nearly a day. The nine affected Lok Sabha seats in the state are all held by the ruling All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) at present and are seen as a challenge for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The EC order, issued after the bust of Bengal renaissance leader Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar was vandalised — both the BJP and AITC have accused each other for this — will draw the curtains on campaigning in Barasat, Basirhat, Diamond Harbour, Dum Dum, Joynagar, Jadavpur, Kolkata South, Kolkata North and Mathurapur Lok Sabha seats on Thursday night. Voting in all these seats will take place on Sunday.
Jadavpur and Kolkata South are considered home turf for AITC Chairperson Mamata Banerjee, who is the state’s chief minister. Banerjee had risen to prominence when she, as a young Congress leader, had in 1984 defeated former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee in Jadavpur. She subsequently shifted to Kolkata South.
A constituency-wise breakdown of different parties’ vote shares in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and the winning candidates’ margins of victory show just how tough the contest would be for the BJP. However, this does not mean that the AITC will have it easy, either.
"It seems that the BJP has been able to polarise West Bengal voters, mainly in the remaining seats, along religious lines like never before. In this manner, the BJP is trying to consolidate the Hindu vote in its favour, even at the cost of losing Muslim voters, who constitute almost 30 per cent of the state’s electorate. At the same time, it also appears that the BJP is in the process of splitting the minority vote, knowing fully well that the entire Hindu vote in the state is unlikely to go its way. If it succeeds in these two political endeavours, it will have a clear advantage over its main political rival, the AITC, in these constituencies, leading not only to a vote share increase but also more seats," says Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury, a political analyst from West Bengal.
"Although this is a parliamentary poll, AITC is facing anti-incumbency in and around Kolkata. Mamata Banerjee, after all, was never a darling of the Bengali 'bhadrolok'. She managed to win almost all elections since 2009 on account of growing misgivings against the CPI(M). AITC was the only alternative political force to reckon with and Banerjee herself appeared to be the crusader," he adds.
1) Dum Dum
In the 2014 elections, the BJP's Tapan Sikdar had come third in the Dum Dum Lok Sabha seat in terms of vote share (22.48%) — behind AITC's Saugata Roy (42.62%) and CPI(M)'s Asim Kumar Dasgupta (28.96%).
AITC's Roy had won with a margin of 154,934 (13.89%) votes. He is again contesting from Dum Dum. The BJP has fielded Samik Bhattacharya from the seat this time.
In the Barasat Lok Sabha seat, too, the BJP's P C Sorcar Junior had stood third in 2014 in terms of vote share (23.35%) — behind AITC's Kakali Ghoshdostidar (41.37%) and All India Forward Bloc's (AIFB's) Mortoza Hossain (27.73%).
AITC's Ghoshdostidar had won with a margin of 173,141 (13.78%) votes. She is again the AITC's candidate from this seat, while the BJP’s candidate this time is Mrinal Kanthi Debnath.
In the Basirhat Lok Sabha seat, the BJP's Samik Bhattacharya had come third in terms of vote share (18.36%) in 2014 — behind the AITC's Idris Ali (38.64%) and CPI's Nurul Huda (30.03%).
AITC's Idris Ali had won with a margin of 109,659 (8.68%) votes. This time, however, he has been replaced by Nusrat Jahan as the AITC candidate for this seat. The BJP has fielded Sayantan Basu for the 2019 polls.
In the Joynagar Lok Sabha seat, the BJP's Krishnapada Majumder had stood fourth in terms of vote share (9.52%) in 2014 — behind AITC's Pratima Mondal (41.61%), Revolutionary Socialist Party's (RSP's) Subhas Naskar (32.49%) and Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist) candidate Tarun Mandal (9.88%).
AITC's Mondal had won with a margin of 108,384 votes (9.18%). She is again AITC's candidate from this seat, while the BJP has fielded Ashok Kandari for the 2019 polls.
In the Mathurapur Lok Sabha seat, the BJP's Tapan Naskar had come third in terms of vote share (5.23%) — behind AITC's Choudhury Mohan Jatua (49.58%) and CPI(M)'s Rinku Naskar (38.66%).
AITC's Jatua had won with a margin of 138,768 (11%) votes. He has again been fielding by the AITC from this seat, while Shyamaprasad Halder is fighting on a BJP ticket.
6) Diamond Harbour
In the Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha seat, the BJP's Abhijit Das had stood third in vote share (15.92%) — behind AITC's Abhishek Banerjee (40.313%) and CPI(M)'s Abul Hasnat (34.661%).
AITC's Abhishek Banerjee, who had won by a margin of 71,298 (5.70%) votes, is again contesting from this constituency, while the BJP has fielded Nilanjan Roy.
In the Jadavpur Lok Sabha seat, the BJP's Sarup Prasad Ghosh had in 2014 stood third in vote share (12.2%) — behind AITC's Sugata Bose (45.83%) and CPI(M)'s Sujan Chakraborty (36.01%).
AITC's Bose had won with a margin of 125,203 (9.96%) votes. This time around, AITC has fielded Mimi Chakraborty from the seat, while the BJP candidate here is Anupam Hazra.
8) Kolkata Dakshin
Despite not winning the Kolkata Dakshin Lok Sabha seat, the BJP had fared better than in the other seats. The BJP's Tathagata Roy had stood second with a 25.28% vote share — behind the AITC's Subrata Bakshi (36.95%).
AITC's Bakshi, who had won with a margin of 136,339 (11.87%) votes, has this time been replaced by Mala Roy. The BJP has fielded Chandra Kumar Bose.
9) Kolkata Uttar
Like in Kolkata Dakshin, the BJP had not done too badly in Kolkata Uttar, either. The BJP's Rahul Sinha had been second in vote share (25.88%), behind AITC's Sudip Bandyopadhyay (35.95%).
AITC's Sudip Bandyopadhyay, who had won with a margin of 96,226 (10.16%) votes, has again been fielded by the AITC. The BJP has also decided to maintain Rahul Sinha as its candidate from Kolkata Uttar.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal, the AITC had won 34 seats with a 39.79% vote share, while the BJP had won two seats with a 17.02% vote share. The Indian National Congress, which had a 9.69% vote share, had won four seats. The CPI(M) had won two seats with a 22.96% vote share.