Kolkata: The Trinamool Congress (TMC) suffered a big setback ahead of panchayat polls as it failed to retain the Sagardighi seat in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district Thursday. Left-backed Congress candidate Bayron Biswas won the bypoll.
The Sagardighi bypoll was held on 27 February.
A beedi baron, Biswas defeated TMC’s Debashish Banerjee, a distant relative of TMC chief and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee by 22,986 votes, according to Election Commission data. The BJP had fielded Dilip Saha from the seat.
The bypoll was necessitated after TMC MLA and minister Subrata Saha — who had been winning the seat for the party since 2011 — passed away last year. In 2021, Saha had won by a margin of nearly 50,000 votes.
Saha was the only TMC candidate to win in Murshidabad district in 2011, the year TMC stormed to power in Bengal, overturning the 34-year-old Left regime.
With this, Congress will now have one MLA in the 294-member legislative assembly, which only had one Indian Secular Front (ISF) MLA and 69 BJP MLAs in the opposition boxes.
Speaking to mediapersons in Kolkata, Mamata said: “I don’t blame anyone. In a democracy, there is win and loss. We strongly condemn the BJP. This time they transferred their vote to Congress. The joke — Congress, CPI(M) and BJP are together. How can Congress say they are anti-BJP? This is a lesson for us. Don’t listen to Congress or BJP. They communalised the poll.”
Congress MP and state president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and CPI(M) leader Mohammad Salim campaigned for Bayron Biswas.
After the party candidate’s win, Chowdhury told ThePrint: “Congress and the Left fought this bypoll together. This result indicates we have also got the support of a section of Trinamool voters. BJP supporters might have also voted for us…But I must mention, without the central force, this election would not have been peaceful…”
He added that the win proves Mamata Banerjee “is not invincible”.
“She can be defeated. Congress will dethrone TMC, and that process has begun from Murshidabad. CPIM, Congress and other like-minded parties will fight unitedly,” he said.
The Election Commission had deployed 30 companies of central forces for Sagardighi bypoll upon the request of Chowdhury, who alleged that the ruling party was “trying to implicate its leaders”. Hours before the bypolls, the EC also removed the officer-in-charge of Sagardighi police station.
For the TMC candidate, both Mamata and party general secretary Abhishek Banerjee campaigned in Sagardighi.
TMC MP Shantanu Sen told mediapersons that the party will introspect on the results and take remedial measures. “From zero to one is not a big achievement. In Sagardighi, the Left-Congress had a secret pact with BJP. TMC will introspect and we will make a comeback,” he said.
Meanwhile, BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya, while addressing a media conference, said: “Our candidates couldn’t enter minority zones not just due to organisational weakness. This time we were able to give polling agents. Murshidabad has been a Congress stronghold, if they can hold on to their win, we would like to congratulate them.”
Notably, Congress’s Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury is MP from Murshidabad Lok Sabha constituency.
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In 2021, TMC had won 51 per cent of the vote share, while BJP managed to bag 24 per cent, and the Left-Congress alliance had secured only 19.5 per cent. According to EC data, while Congress recorded a vote share of 47.35 per cent, TMC and BJP’s vote share dipped to 34.94 per cent and 13.94 per cent respectively.
The Sagardighi bypoll results come at a time when the state government is grappling with corruption charges in the alleged school service recruitment scam and alleged irregularities in handing out benefits under central government funded schemes.
Political analyst Snigdhendu Bhattacharya told ThePrint: “The rise of Congress-Left slowly and steadily as a challenger to TMC won’t be a good sign for BJP. The BJP voteshare has further dipped, and this result is a warning sign for the TMC.”
Meanwhile, political analyst Shourjya Bhowmik said the result needs to be read very closely as it holds the minority votes. Sagardighi has a 64 per cent minority voteshare, which the Trinamool failed to capture.
“Does it then indicate that the Muslims are unhappy with the Trinamool? It’s a big blow for the TMC and more importantly, when the politics of West Bengal was being seen as almost bipolar fight between TMC and BJP, it now shows a multipolar fight with CPIM and Congress still in the game.”
(Edited by Anumeha Saxena)
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