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In Mamata bypoll seat, Gujaratis & Marwaris are ‘BJP backers’ but TMC has history on its side

Bhabanipur in South Kolkata, from where Mamata Banerjee will contest crucial bypoll, has a sizeable Gujarati & Marwari population, but TMC has trailed here only once in last 10 years.  

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Kolkata: Nearly 40 per cent of the electorate in Bhabanipur assembly constituency, from where West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will contest a crucial bypoll on 30 September, is made up of Gujaratis, Marwaris, Sikhs and Biharis. Around 20 per cent are Muslims, while the remaining 40 per cent are Bengalis. 

The demography has earned the constituency in Kolkata district the ‘mini Bharat’ tag, and led to the perception that, with such a high number of Gujarati and Marwari voters, the seat tilts more towards the BJP. 

History, however, shows otherwise.  

Over the past decade, Mamata’s Trinamool Congress has lost just one election here — the 2019 Parliamentary polls, when the BJP led in the assembly segment. Bhabanipur is part of the Kolkata Dakshin or South Kolkata Parliamentary constituency.    

Bhabanipur has seen six elections in the past 10 years, which includes two general elections in 2014 and 2019, three assembly elections in 2011, 2016 and 2021 and one by-election in 2011. 

Barring the 2019 blip, the Trinamool has always had an edge here. 

In the 2021 elections, Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, the state’s agriculture minister, won from Bhabanipur by a margin of 29,000 votes. 

“In the areas with higher Gujarati and Marwari population, we did well. In fact, only in two wards — KMC ward 70 and 74 — we trailed by around 3,500 and 450 votes. In the other six wards, we led by huge margins,” Chattopadhyay told ThePrint. 

“In the 2019 general elections, BJP led in six of eight assembly segments (in South Kolkata constituency), but this election, they trailed in six of eight (wards),” he added. “I see this as a good recovery of votes.”

He further said Gujarati and Marwari voters of Bengal are now also fond of the chief minister.

“This is a state election. The non-Bengali voters also know and see what work Mamata has done. In general elections, there are different kinds of voter sentiments. But, in the assembly election, there is no divide between Gujarati or Bengali,” Chattopadhyay said. 

“All will vote for Mamata. We are just now trying to secure the highest possible margin for the chief minister.”  

Chattopadhyay had resigned as the Bhabanipur MLA in June to vacate the seat for the chief minister. 

BJP leaders, however, claim the constituency may “shock” Mamata Banerjee. 

“The chief minister is addressing workers’ meetings, visiting mandirs and masjids every day, chanting the Chandi path and bringing a battery of senior leaders, including ministers and MPs, to supervise the wards. Does it look normal? asked Arjun Singh, the BJP MP appointed as the party observer in the seat. 

“Has anyone ever seen a politician who lost elections becoming chief minister in the country? There are cases in which the party chiefs did not contest an election, and became chief minister, only to contest later and win,” he added.

“But does anyone remember one in which a candidate who lost became a CM? Did anyone ever witness a chief minister putting all her might into a by-election like this ?  This means she is still insecure, and Bhabanipur may shock her.” 


Also read: West Bengal Advocate General Kishore Datta resigns, fourth top law officer to quit in a row


The demographic factor 

The Bhabanipur seat is composed of eight wards of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation. They include ward numbers 63, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 77 and 82.  

Wards 70 and 72 are mostly inhabited by Gujarati and Marwari populations, with Sikhs numbering not more than 2,000, said a senior Trinamool leader who works on the election data. 

Apart from this, Bhabanipur has 20 per cent Muslim voters, who are primarily Hindi- or Urdu-speaking. According to the leader, the Muslim voters are mostly concentrated in three wards — 77, 82 and 63. 

Election Commission data shows that Mamata Banerjee won the 2016 assembly election here by around 25,000 votes. She defeated Deepa Das Munshi of the CPM-Congress alliance.

Sobhandeb defeated the BJP’s Rudranil Ghosh by around 29,000 votes. In fact, he managed more votes — 73,000 — than the 65,000 votes the chief minister had secured in the 2016 elections.

“In a by-election, the ruling party always has an edge. People generally vote for the party in power,” said Saugata Roy, Trinamool MP and member of Banerjee’s core committee. 

Commenting on Mamata Banerjee’s campaign in the area, he said, “For Banerjee, every election is a battle. She takes this as an opportunity to motivate the cadre, revamp the organisation and build more connections with the people.” 

The BJP, however, feels it may not be all smooth sailing for the ruling party. 

“Didi fled from Bhabanipur during the 2021 election considering this as a tough seat. In fact, in 2011, even when the CPM’s defeat was imminent, she did not take a chance with this seat,” said Sisir Bajoria, senior leader and member of the BJP’s election committee. 

“Why is the chief minister so hyperactive, if she has nothing to lose here? We are putting all resources in the place and there cannot be a more suitable candidate than Priyanka (Tibrewal) for this seat.”  

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)


Also read: Who is Priyanka Tibrewal, the BJP lawyer who will take on Mamata Banerjee in Bhabanipur


 

 

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