Despite the landslide victory that Trinamool Congress (TMC) had in this year’s West Bengal assembly elections, the upcoming bypolls in Kolkata’s Bhabanipur constituency will decide if party chief Mamata Banerjee can continue to retain the chief minister’s chair.
Banerjee will begin her campaign for the bypolls on Wednesday after the Election Commission on Saturday announced that it will hold elections in three constituencies of the eastern state, including the Bhabanipur seat from where Banerjee won twice.
Besides Bhabanipur, the bypolls will be held in Jangipur and Samsherganj constituencies in Bengal, and Pipli in Odisha on September 30. The counting of votes will take place on October 3 – the week before Durga Puja celebrations kick off in Bengal.
What to expect at the campaign?
The TMC chief will launch the campaign following a meeting with her party workers in south Kolkata, those familiar with the development told news agency PTI. “Mamata Didi will address party workers tomorrow and give them direction on how to campaign and the issues that will be highlighted,” a senior TMC leader said, adding that the party leadership mentioned that the campaign must held be in adherence to norms necessitated to check the spread of Covid-19.
According to news agency PTI, the chief minister will address her party workers as well as leaders of all eight municipal wards of the Bhabanipur constituency at an auditorium.
Another senior TMC leader told PTI that the party’s state president Subrata Bakshi has been given the charge of ward number 63, while party general secretary and state minister Partha Chatterjee has been assigned wards 71 and 72. Additionally, state minister Firhad Hakim and other senior TMC leaders have been tasked with looking after the remaining wards that fall under the Bhabanipur constituency. “This has been done to ensure that Didi (Banerjee) wins the seat with a record margin,” the TMC leader added.
Why is it important for Banerjee to win?
Banerjee had lost to her former aide Suvendu Adhikari by a close margin of 1,956 votes from Nandigram constituency in the assembly polls this year. However, as TMC came back with a thumping majority, Banerjee was sworn in as the chief minister for the third time. As per the Constitution, the TMC supremo has to win on any seat in the state to have the chance of becoming a member of the state assembly. In fact, she has to win before November 5 to remain the chief minister’s position.
TMC’s Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, who originally won the Bhabanipur seat, vacated it for Banerjee to contest.
Where do the opposition parties stand?
West Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury confirmed on Tuesday that his party won’t field any candidate for the Bhabanipur bypolls, news agency ANI reported.
As far as BJP is concerned, party’s state general secretary Sayantan Basu informed PTI on Tuesday that they will announce the name of its candidate against Banerjee in a couple of days.
“The Election Commission has decided to hold by-elections on September 30. We had the idea that it would be held sometime later. But we must obey the EC order. We don’t oppose independent constitutional bodies like the EC, unlike the TMC,” Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said.
What is Banerjee’s record in Bhabanipur?
Banerjee is herself a resident of Bhabanipur, and has won twice in the previous two assembly polls. She has been contesting from the seat ever since TMC came into power in Bengal by routing the Left Front after its 34-year rule.
It was for the first time this year that Banerjee decided to contest from the Nandigram seat in what seemed to be a power tussle between her and Adhikari, who left the TMC to join the BJP a few months before the assembly polls.