Mamata Or Suvendu? Bengal Gears For ‘Asol Khela’ In Phase-II


Mamata or Suvendu — Bengal is all set to witness the most interesting innings of the great ‘Khela’ (game) of power when electorates will decide the fate of the two in the second phase of polling on Thursday.
In phase-II, a total of 30 Assembly constituencies from the districts of South 24 Parganas, Bankura, Paschim Medinipur and Purba Medinipur will go to polls. There are 171 candidates in the fray in phase-II of West Bengal polls, out of which 152 candidates are men while only 19 are women. It means only 11 per cent of the candidates are female.

Among these candidates, two are undoubtedly the most prominent figures, that is, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her former ministerial colleague Suvendu Adhikari, who had joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in December last year. And, Nandigram is all set to witness the most high-profile contest in the second phase where Banerjee and Adhikari are taking on each other. Not to forget here, Adhikari had pledged that he will quit politics if he does not defeat Mamata by 50,000 votes in Nandigram.

Banerjee is levelling on Nandigram this time by not contesting from her home turf Bhabanipur seat making this election more interesting. The Left Front has fielded Minakshi Mukherjee, the state president of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) from Nandigram against Banerjee and Adhikari.
After the high-voltage Nandigram contest, it is the Debra Assembly seat that set the poll fever high for the second phase of West Bengal elections. In the Debra seat, BJP has fielded former IPS officer Bharati Ghosh against Trinamool Congress’ Humayun Kabir, also an ex-IPS officer.

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Notably, Ghosh once happened to be close to Mamata Banerjee. She joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2019 ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. On the other hand, Kabir joined TMC ahead of the West Bengal Assembly polls.

Many popular faces from the entertainment industry are emerging in the second phase of polls, with actors Soham Chakraborty and Sayantika Banerjee contesting for Chandipur and Bankura respectively from TMC while actor Hiranmoy Chattopadhyay from BJP contesting for the seat in Kharagpur Sadar in Paschim Medinipur.

In Tamluk, TMC has fielded Soumen Mahapatra, BJP has fielded Harekrishna Bera and CPI has fielded Goutam Panda. In the Moyna constituency in Purba Medinipur, BJP has fielded cricketer Ashok Dinda against TMC’s Sangram Kumar Dolui and Congress’ Manik Bhownik.

In Haldia, sitting MLA Tapasi Mondal who was earlier with CPI(M) but later joined BJP in 2020 will take on TMC’s Swapan Naskaran and CPI(M)’s Manika Kar Paik. The state is likely to witness a triangular contest this time with Trinamool Congress, Congress-Left alliance and Bharatiya Janata Party in the fray.
Some of the major issues in South 24 Parganas, Bankura, Paschim Medinipur and Purba Medinipur are unemployment, lack of industrial growth and economic backwardness, with several small-scale workers and artisans facing hardships since the imposition of the COVID-19 lockdown. This has propelled both top parties to woo voters in their support.

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Once a bastion of the Left Front, these constituencies have voted in favour of TMC in the last two elections. But, the air of anti-incumbency against the ruling government can also play a decisive role during polling. Also, Purba Medinipur is considered to be a stronghold of the Adhikari clan. TMC is levelled on some of its welfare schemes like ‘Duare Sarkar’, ‘Swastho Sathi’ and ‘Kanyashree’ to garner votes.

However, the power-packed campaigns involving stormy rallies and mega roadshows were mostly dominated by the ruling TMC and the BJP. The third front, that is, the coalition of the Congress, Left Front and Indian Secular Force, has been observed to be on the back foot when it comes to fierce campaigning.

The ambitious BJP has done intense campaigning with the goal to topple the incumbent TMC government in the state. To continue its stride in Bengal especially after an overwhelming result in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in the state, the party has roped in Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and many others into the campaign fray.
It will not be wrong to say that West Bengal has become the second home for Shah and BJP President JP Nadda who have been holding roadshows and rallies every other day.

When the ‘Jai Sri Ram’ slogan became synonymous with the BJP, another slogan that has been dominating this election season is ‘Khela hobe’ (game is on). Though the slogan was raised by TMC, it has now crossed the barrier of party lines.

Meanwhile, the first phase of the West Bengal Assembly elections concluded with an estimated 79.79 per cent voter turnout on Saturday, which covered 30 seats from Purulia, Jhargram, Bankura, Purba and Paschim Medinipur.

The polling for 31 seats in the third phase of the 294-member state Assembly will be held on April 6. The elections for 44 seats will be held in the fourth phase on April 10. Further, in the fifth phase on April 17, 45 seats will go to polls. The sixth phase is scheduled for April 22 when elections for 43 seats will be done. In the seventh phase on April 26, polling will be held for 36 seats. Finally, the eighth phase is scheduled for April 29 when 35 seats will go for polling.

The counting of votes will take place on May 2.

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