Kolkata, April 21: Third round of electoral contest is set to begin in West Bengal. In this phase of elections, 62 seats will be contested. The assembly segments which would be on the line fall in the districts of Murshidabad, Nadia, Burdwan and Kolkata Uttar (North). While the major contest is between Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the alliance of Congress-Left Front, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could play the role of spoiler for either parties in some constituencies.
Although Mamata Banerjee received a tough fight in the first two phases of elections, political pundits opine that the TMC somehow had the upper hand due to its booth-level cadres. However, over the past week, public mood has been changing against the incumbent regime, especially since the Election Commission of India issued a show-cause notice to Mamata Banerjee for poll code violation. ECI also suspended Kolkata Police chief Rakesh Kumar and Birbhum SP Mukehs kumar for allegedly acting on behest of ruling TMC government. (ALSO READ: Election Commission vs Mamata Banerjee: The Battle Royale)
Major constituencies and key electoral players:
Shyampukur: Falling in the district of North Kolkata, it has a mixed electoral population with more of urban dwellers and less of their rural counterparts. The constituency was won by Trinamool in 2011 assembly polls with a huge margin. The sitting MLA Shashi Panja is challenged by All India Forward Bloc’s Piyali Pal, who is representing the Left Front.
– Sitting MLA: Shashi Panja (TMC)
– Prominent challengers: Piyali Pal (AIFB), Somabrata Mandal (BJP)
Maniktala: Once a CPM-stronghold, Maniktala was wrested away from the communists by TMC in 2011. Veteran leader Sadhan Pande is the incumbent legislator. He has also been serving as state cabinet minister in Mamata Banerjee government. CPM has fielded its popular youth wing leader Rajib Majumder as the candidate.
– Sitting MLA: Sadhan Pande (TMC)
– Prominent challengers: Rajib Majumdar (CPM), Sunil Roy (BJP)
Jorasanko: One of the very few seats in West bengal where Left has never been elected. The voters have always chosen the Indian National Congress from the seat up till the elections of 2001, when the Trinamool bagged the constituency. The incumbent MLA Smita bakshi, however, faces a tough fight not only from the Congress, but the BJP too. The saffron outfit has fielded party’s national secretary Rahul Sinha.
– Sitting MLA: Smita bakshi (TMC)
– Prominent challengers: Rahul Sinha (BJP), Subrata Bhattacharya (Congress)
Jangipur: In this minority doinated seat, a neck-to-neck battles is exected is between Mamata Banerjee and Congress-Left Front alliance. Veteran Congress leader and 5-time MLA Mohammed Sohrab would be defending his seat against Trinamool’s Jakir Hussain.
– Sitting MLA: Md Sohrab (Congress)
– Prominent challengers: Jakir Hussain (TMC), Sudhan kumar Das (BJP)
Domkal: Despite the wave of change in TMC’s favour during 2011 assembly elections, the seat of Domkal could not be snatched. A left bastion since the past 4 decades, the assembly segments for the past 25 years is being represented by CPM’s senior leader Anisur Rehman. The constituency is located in Muslim dominated district Murshidabad. To pose a challenge to the Left, TMC has roped in popular Congress leader Soumik Hussain, who lost the previous election from this seat in a close-fought electoral battle. However, the fight has turned triangular since retired IPS officer Nazrul Islam is contesting as an independent. According to local surveys, Nazrul goodwill among the district’s Muslim as well as non-Muslim voters.
– Sitting MLA: Anisur Rehman (CPM)
– Prominent challengers: Soumik Hussain (TMC), Nazrul Islam (Independent)
3rd phase to mark a turning point for Congress-Left alliance
Corruption takes centrestage in mid-polls: Although Mamata had been dismissing the questions surrounding Narada and Sharada, she has now been forced by media and Opposition to vent her opinion on the two contentious matters. The intelligentsia of West bengal have formed an opinion that Mamata Banerjee is covering the acts of corruption by her own party members. The allegations of rebel TMC leader Mukul Roy, claiming that the money being taken (as seen in Narada sting) was taken on bhealf of the party, with complete knowledge of the top leadership. The mass response received by Buddhadeb Bhattacharya in his rally demanding ‘unity against corruption’ also shows that electorates of West Bengal have began perceiving TMC government as highly ‘corrupt’.
Electoral violence fierce than seen in 34-year-rule of Left: Mamata Banerjee promised pariborton (change) while swearing in chief minister in 2011. However, when it comes to strengthening democracy in the state, her regime has been far more hooliganistic as compared to the CPI(M). Electoral violence has increased manifold. “Left has given Mamata Banerjee the gift of rigging the polling process. There is no difference between them. The anmount of poll violence has crossed all barriers,” said Manas Banerjee, editor-in-chief of Bengali daily Dainik Agroot.