Elections 2021

Amid anti-incumbency, Trinamool switches ten of the 18 candidates in Hooghly district

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on April 06, 2021

Volunteers provide hand sanitizer and mask to an elderly voter at a polling station during the third phase of West Bengal Assembly elections   -  PTI

Eight of these seats are going to polls on Tuesday while polling for the remaining ten will take place on April 10

A strong anti-incumbency wave, discontent over local leadership, defections, polarisation and a BJP surge has seen West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, change ten of the 18 candidates in Hooghly district, that is considered to be a Trinamool-Congress citadel. Eight of these seats are going to polls on Tuesday while polling for the remaining ten will take place on April 10.

Trinamool’s vote share in the district was well above 50 per cent across the majority of the 16 seats that it had won during the 2016 Assembly polls. Two other seats went to Congress and Left Front candidates with BJP failing to win any.

It is also in this district that the party rose to the limelight by extending its support to the people’s movement against the Left Front government’s forcible land acquisition in Singur for the Tata small car plant in 2007.

Winds of change

However, Trinamool’s total dominance – from assembly to panchayat to municipalities and local bodies – here faced its first resistance in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Debutant politician, Locket Chatterjee defeated the two-time-MP, Ratna De Nag in Hooghly.

The second shock came in Arambag – a Lok Sabha constituency with substantial minority population – where Trinamool’s Aparupa Poddar (Afrin Ali) scraped through by a little over 1,100 votes. BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari recently stoked the controversy by claiming that some EVMs here had not been counted. If done, Trinamool would have lost.

Aramabag’s close finish also indicated that there was polarisation at play. Sreerampur was the only MP seat that Trinamool retained comfortably.

BJP snapping at heels

A post result analysis reveals that the Trinamool trailed in six Assembly segments of Hooghly that include Singur, Balagarh, Saptagram, Chunchura, Chandannagar and Pandua and led by around 3,000 in Dhanekhali.

In Arambag, the Trinamool trailed in two – Pursurah and Goghat; while in Sreeerampur it trailed in one Assembly segment.

“We trailed in more than half of the Assembly segments; there was a close fight in at least three to four seats that was previously thought as walkovers. Results in Hooghly were far below expectations and the BJP’s vote share was up substantially to around 40 per cent in 2019, leading to organisational changes,” a local Trinamool leader said.

Sitting MLAs dropped

The ruling party dropped sitting MLAs in places like Singur, Pandua, Balagarh, Tarakeshwar, Pursurah and Khanakul; replaced candidate in Arambag (which is now a reserved seat) and interchanged probables in Haripal (sitting MLA Becharam Manna’s wife will contest the seat as he gets moved to Singur).

In Balagarh and Tarakeshwar, there was dissatisfaction against MLAs so the party went with fresh faces and a clean track record. In Purusrah, the ruling party feared polarisation changed candidates.

In Singur, it decided to drop the 89-year-old Rabindranath Bhattacharjee citing age and brought about an end to the factional feud between him and the nearby Haripal MLA.

In Champdani, where Trinamool lost in 2016, it brought in a new candidate, the former chairperson of Baidyabati Municipality, Arindam Guin – a known face in the area with a clean track record.

In Uttarpara, the sitting MLA Prabir Ghoshal switched over to BJP.

BJP’s internal feuds

It is not smooth sailing for BJP either. The party is rigged with its own infighting that came out in the open.

Hooghly is one district, where the saffron party has seen maximum discontent over the candidates and induction of turncoats. Offices were ransacked and some workers made suicide bids reportedly.

Party old guards resented in places like Tarakeshwar, Chunchura and Chandannagar over “outsider candidates”; while in Singur, Uttarpara and Goghat protests erupted over induction of TMC and Left Front turncoats.

Published on April 06, 2021

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