All eyes would be on the Bhabanipur assembly bypoll on September 30 as West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee would be contesting from this seat to retain her chief ministerial berth.
The assembly constituency in the heart of south Kolkata is Banerjee’s home turf. Not only she is a resident of this constituency, she had been elected twice from the seat in 2011 and 2016.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has pitted woman youth leader and advocate Priyanka Tibrewal from the seat against Banerjee. While the Congress has refrained from fielding any candidate, the Left Front has pitted Shrijeeb Biswas from the seat.
In the 2021 assembly polls, nine candidates contested from Bhabanipur, out of which deposit of seven candidates were forfeited. The fight was primarily between the TMC and BJP. This time 12 candidates, including Banerjee and Tibrewal are contesting from the seat.
The bypoll became necessary because TMC leader Sovandeb Chatterjee, who had won from Bhabanipur in the assembly polls earlier this year, resigned in May so that Banerjee could contest from the seat and retain her berth.
Even though the Trinamool Congress swept the assembly polls, winning 213 seats out of the 292 where polls were held in April this year to return to power for the third consecutive time, Banerjee lost from Nandigram to BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari, her protégé-turned-adversary. Banerjee needs to win from an assembly seat by November 5 to remain the state’s chief minister.
The constituency has 2,06,389 electors out of which 95,143 are female voters, which comes to around 46%. More than 20% of the people in Bhabanipur are Muslims, while Sikhs and non-Bengali speaking Hindus comprise around 34% of the local population.
The BJP has been attacking Banerjee for being allegedly pro-minorities and corrupt and also highlighted the post-poll violence.
Though Banerjee won the Bhabanipur assembly seat in 2011 and 2016, the BJP has been making strides in the area. The BJP candidate from Kolkata South Parliamentary constituency Tathagata Roy came second in 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Interestingly, he had a lead of 185 votes in Bhabanipur assembly segment. The TMC trailed the BJP in two of the eight civic wards in the last held civic polls.
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