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CPM banks on Congress to open its account in Bengal blockbuster

Both INDIA bloc allies fighting elections in coalition against Mamata Banerjee’s TMC and a resurgent BJP in a state that was ruled by the Left Front for 34 years.

Screenshot 2024 04 30 094047KOLKATA: The third phase of the parliamentary polls in West Bengal due on May 7 has an interesting aspect of it: the CPM is now forced to ally with the Congress that was once its bête noir. With no MP from the state in the 2019 elections, the CPM is now trying to ride piggyback on Congress to open its account. The four constituencies of Malda Uttar, Malda Dakshin, Jangipur and Murshidabad are considered the Congress bastion.

Another aspect of the third phase is the virtual split in the INDIA bloc. Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee, who participated in a few meetings of the bloc and claimed to have given the name to the alliance, has fielded decided candidates from all 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in the State. She blamed the Congress for not being able to reach an electoral understanding.

Out of the four seats, the BJP won Malda Uttar, Congress wrested Malda Dakshin and Trinamool had won Jangipur and Murshidabad in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The BJP has launched a mega campaign not only in Malda but also in Murshidabad. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have campaigned in Malda while BJP chief J.P. Nadda has held rallies in Murshidabad. Ms. Banerjee and Trinamool general secretary Abhishek Banerjee are campaigning extensively in the region.

Maladies of Malda South

Trinamool candidate Shahnawaz Ali Raihan is pitted against BJP’s Sreerupa Mitra. Born in Malda, the Trinamool candidate has a grip over local issues, including the river erosion and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Raihan says CAA is not only anti-Muslim, it is also anti-Bengali. “The BJP experiment in Assam proves it. There is a deliberate attempt to mock the Bengali identity and food habits,” says Raihan who is associated with anti-CAA protests over the years. The Union Home Ministry on March 11 published the rules relating to the Act and the Trinamool leadership has been criticising it ever since.

The Malda seat involves an interesting electoral contest with Raihan representing the Trinamool, Sreerupa Mitra Chowdhury BJP and Congress’ Isha Khan Chowdhury defending the seat. Chowdhury’s father Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury represented the seat over the past five years. While the Congress won it in 2019, Trinamool swept the region in the 2021 Assembly elections. While a majority of the voters in the constituency are Muslims, a split in their vote may help the BJP to give an extra edge over the TMC.

Raihan said the key problems of the constituency such as river erosion and migration require a “radical approach”. “We have to admit that the Farakka Barrage was a wrong project. We have to accept that it was a mistake and take corrective measures. Most of the responsibility of the damage lies with the Centre,” said the Trinamool candidate.

Left & Right in Malda North

The constituency in the northern part of West Bengal is set to witness a three-cornered contest with the Congress-Left Front alliance, BJP and the TMC locking horns. The constituency, once a stronghold of the Congress, has seen the emergence of the BJP and the Trinamool Congress over the past decade.

The TMC holds sway over Chanchal, Harishchandrapur, Malatipur, and Ratua assembly seats, which are part of the Lok Sabha constituency, while the BJP has made inroads in Habipur, Gazole, and Malda segments.

Despite such a shift, longstanding issues such as river erosion, healthcare infrastructure and drinking water problems persist. BJP MP Khagen Murmu is pitted against TMC’s fomer IPS officer Prasun Banerjee. Congress has fielded Mostaque Alam.

Incumbent BJP MP Khagen Murmu, confident of retaining the seat for the second term, says his efforts to address local grievances have met with resistance from the state government. He cited challenges in implementing Central schemes due to “lack of cooperation” from the state administration.

Murmu, a former CPM MLA from Habibpur, joined BJP in 2019. He says he faced huge resistance from the state government whenever he tried to implement any Central scheme.

“I requested the state government to send a detailed project report to the Centre so that river erosion could be checked. But that never happened,” Murmu alleged.

Congress candidate Mostaque Alam says people are fed up with the BJP and TMC politics. He questions the understanding of the grassroots politics of IPS officer-turned-TMC candidate Prasun Banerjee.

Banerjee, a 2006-batch IPS officer, has held several important positions, including Inspector General (IG) of Raiganj range, before taking voluntary retirement to contest elections. Banerjee declined to reply to his opponents and went on to say, “I do not want to speak anything now. June 4 will reveal everything.”

However, factionalism could mar Trinamool’s chances, as Ghani family member and parliamentarian Mausam Noor is unhappy about not being given a ticket from the seat. Noor was elected MP from this seat in 2009 and 2014 on a Congress ticket, before she defected to TMC.

Challenge in murshidabad

The Murshidabad seat will be contested by CPM general secretary Mohd Salim, Trinamool’s sitting MP Abu Taher Khan and BJP’s Gouri Shankar Ghosh. Although Congress has thrown their weight behind CPM, Congress leader Adhir Chowdhury while he was campaigning for CPM is facing tough challenge from BJP in Murshidabad because BJP is trying to consolidate Hindu vote here.

They took out processions of Ram Navami and violence was reported in various places. Even Mamata in her speech at various rallies said that BJP is stoking communal violence at Behrampore. Recently after the Ram Navami event, Adhir was sent to the hospital by BJP workers when he went there to see the injured who were admitted at the Behrampore hospital. During the Ram Navami rally around 4 people were injured during a clash with BJP workers.

After visting Shaktipur in Behrampore area where the clash took place, Chowdhury said: “I came to see the people who were injured in the clash. But BJP workers staged a protest in the hospital claiming that Hindus were under attack and demanded an answer from me. Those protesting should ask those who need to answer,” he added. The TMC’s Yusuf Pathan is a new candidate. It needs to be seen how far TMC can do in Behrampore.

Jangipur jigsaw puzzle

The seat is synonymous with late President Pranab Mukher- jee, who contested the seat twice in 2004 and 2009. It was contested by Mukherjee’s son, Abhijit Mukherjee, in 2012, when Pranab Mukherjee became President.

Abhijit again contested the seat in 2016. In 2019, the seat was won by the Trinamool Congress and local businessman Khallilur Rahman. He is re-contesting this time. BJP’s Dhanahjay Ghosh and Congress’ Mortazza Hossain are contesting the seat in a three-corner fight.

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