A FIERCE political battle is all set to unfold on Tuesday, when bypolls to Asansol Lok Sabha and Ballygunge Assembly constituencies will be held. For the BJP, it would be a challenge to retain the Asansol seat and spring a surprise in Ballygunge constituency, a TMC stronghold. For the ruling TMC, it is a litmus test to win the Asansol constituency for the first time and retain the Ballygunge seat.
The Asansol seat fell vacant after former Union minister Babul Supriyo resigned as the BJP Member of Parliament from the seat from where he won the election in 2014 and the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. He has been made the TMC candidate from the Ballygunge Assembly constituency in Kolkata, which fell vacant after the demise of former state minister and veteran party leader Subrata Mukherjee in November last year.
In Asansol, TMC fielded former BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha, who is from Bihar and has represented the Patna Sahib constituency in the Lok Sabha in the past. He is contesting against BJP MLA turned party candidate Agnimitra Paul.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Supriyo had defeated TMC candidate Moon Moon Sen by a massive margin 1,97,637 votes and also secured 51.56 per cent of the total votes polled. In 2014, Supriyo’s victory margin was 70,480 votes.
Sinha is confident that this will be a historic election with a hysterical reaction from the voters. “This is a great opportunity for the people to strengthen the hands of Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress. I am confident that people will give us a huge mandate,” said Sinha.
Paul on the other hand is banking on her “daughter of the soil” image to defeat “bohiragoto” (outsider) Shatrughan Sinha. “I am from Asansol and people here know me. I have worked for them as an MLA for last one year. I am sure they will support me in this bypoll,”said Paul.
CPM candidate Partha Mukherjee is also on the fray but the party’s chances look bleak against the two heavyweight candidates from TMC and BJP.
For the Ballygunge Assembly constituency in Kolkata, the challenge before the TMC is maintain a lead margin of 76,359 votes by which the former state panchayat minister, Subrata Mukherjee defeated the BJP candidate, Loknath Chatterjee in the 2021 West Bengal Assembly polls. Mukherjee had secured 70.50 per cent.
With Babul Supriyo finding it difficult to get the support of minority voters in the constituency due to his previous party links, CPM candidate Saira Shah Halim, niece of actor Naseeruddin Shah, is in a better position to get their support.
“If you have seen the response from people belonging to minority communities then you wound not had asked this question. I am getting a positive response from them,” said Supriyo.
Halim too appeared confident that people of Ballygunge will vote for the Left this time. “I have reached out to all the people. We don’t divide people as minority or majority,” said Halim.
BJP candidate Keya Ghosh is optimistic that the saffron camp will put up a good show in TMC-dominated constituency.
“We believe in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mantra of ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas aur Sabka Biswas’. I don’t know whether Babul Supriyo is a heavyweight candidate but he surely is not a challenge before our party,” said Ghosh.
The bypolls will be held tomorrow under tight security. Webcasting to be conducted in 100 per cent booths in Ballygunge and 51 per cent booths in Asansol.
While Ballygunge Assembly constituency has a total 300 booths, the same in Asansol is 2,102. A total of 23 booths in Ballygunge have been declared sensitive. The number of identified sensitive booths in Asansol is 680.
While Ballygunge has 40 micro-observers, the number is Asansol is 442. A total of 133 companies of the central armed forces have been deployed for the bypolls, out of which 116 companies have been allotted for Asansol and the remaining 17 companies for Ballygunge. Results for the bypolls will be declared on April 16.