By Arun Srivastava
The TMC chief Mamata Banerjee has to win the by election from the Bhowanipur assembly segment for her political existence. Though the prevalent political scenario and equations strongly project her as the eventual winner, even a politically naïve would count ten points favouring her victory, like BJP candidate being a light weight, the party lacking a strong support base and the constituency being the home turf of Mamata, Trinamool cadres have to work hard to snatch victory.
Dominated by the non Bengali population the Bhawanipur assembly constituency has been traditionally a Congress strong hold. In the past the voters from this packet had the privilege to elect the Congress stalwarts. Even after delimitation of the constituency the fundamentals continue to be the same. In the recently held assembly election, the BJP had fielded a Bengali candidate. But this time it set up Tibrewal only for the reason that she would attract the non Bengali voters.
In fact during the last assembly election, the BJP had strived hard to polarise the Bengali and non-Bengali voters. It has succeeded to some extent, but could not make a major dent. A section of the RSS leaders who have carried out a survey of the constituency hold the view that the efforts which were pushed in the last election would have major impact this time.
Incidentally Tibrewal is known to be close to Babul Supriyo, who barely a month back had threatened to leave the party. The state chief Dilip Ghosh and even senior leader Subhendu Adhikari are unable to make out what made the national leaders to nominate her. She has been an active and vocal young leader of the party in the state and is the key petitioner in the post poll violence cases in the Calcutta high court. After the election she has emerged as the party face to defend the rights of the party cadres. She has succeeded in her mission to make agree the NHRC chairman to send a NHRC team to Bengal to investigate the cases of poll violence. She is also the vice-president of BJP’s youth wing in West Bengal. Incidentally the Calcutta High Court had ordered a CBI probe into the violence, which the BJP considered as a victory for its stance.
Yet another reason for fielding Tibrewal is the BJP wants to see that she consolidates its cadre vote to register a good turnout against Mamata. Notwithstanding confusion still continuing in the party on the nomination of Tibrewal, the leaders and the cadres feel that she will succeed in winning over the support of Marwaris and Gujaratis who constitute sizeable population. These voters, it is said still continue to nurse hurt feelings on the remarks of Mamata of the non Bengalis being outsiders (bahiragata). They have been feeling hurt at this but the fact remains that she did not mean them. She had used the word against the persons and leaders whom the BJP had imported during the elections. But the state leaders continue to play with the fragile sentiments of the local non Bengalis.
The BJP is tight lipped about the possible visit of Modi or Amit Shah to the state. This would allegedly belittle their national stature. Nevertheless a senior leader confided that Modi may visit the constituency some time in the last week of the month. He would not address any meeting but would prefer to have some sort of social and cultural interaction with the voters of the constituency.
State BJP president Dilip Ghosh is firm that she will face the same fate as in Nandigram. According to him the BJP had defeated her in Nandigram. She will be defeated again in Bhowanipur The people of the constituency will give her a befitting reply for the torture and violence her party unleashed after the assembly polls, he said. He also holds that the BHJP candidate is a local girl and obviously she would successfully counter the appeal of Mamata of being the girl of Bengal.
It is at the directive of the IT cell that she has been trying to project herself as the champion of human rights. An ambience is also being created that non Bengalis are not safe in the state and BJP is willing to fifth for them. To reach out to the voters Tibrewal vehemently asserts that she is not an outsider in Bhowanipore. “I was born in Bhowanipore and know every lane and bylane. I have already taken on Mamata Banerjee in court and I proved her wrong on the issue of post-poll violence in Bengal. This is my second challenge to her,” Tibrewal said.
Meanwhile the BJP leaders are scared of a scenario when large number of BJP legislators in one chunk may quit the party and join the TMC. Already four MLAs have switched to the Trinamul from the BJP. The home ministry had earlier withdrawn security provided to the first defector, Mukul Roy, and his son, Subhrangshu. In a significant development recently the central withdrew its security cover provided to at least half of the BJP legislators.
BJP sources said Ghosh’ is worried of the “worst-kept secret” of how dilapidated the party’s organisation had become in the wake of its Assembly election debacle. Recently while interacting with senior leaders and cadres he had observed “It is very true that nobody in our party is willing or capable for contesting against Mamata in Bhowanipore in a bypoll, months after she led her party to a statewide sweep.” He had expressed his disgust at the cold approach of the national leaders towards the desertion by the legislators. Already the party workers in many districts have been deserting the organisation. These leaders seek to know that whether the voters of Bhowanipur are unaware of these developments. How could party expect that in the existing situation why the non Bengali voters will risk their interest by voting for BJP?
Senior minister Firhad Hakim however said “The people of Bhabanipur are eagerly waiting to rewrite history by ensuring Mamata Banerjee’s victory by a record margin. They are waiting to avenge the conspiracy that was hatched to defeat Mamata di at Nandigram.”
The BJP has decided to focus and improve its booth management. IT cell chief Amit Malviya who has been monitoring the electioneering is of the opinion that senior and experts hands should man the booths. He is said to have observed; “We have seen in earlier polls that our agents are threatened and asked to leave booths…. If we have two agents in each booth, we can replace one with another if there is a problem,” a source said. The national leaders, keeping in the recent boost in the image of Mamata and her wide acceptability as the potent challenger to Modi, strongly favour an aggressive campaign. They are in favour of using all kinds of machination to outwit Mamata. (IPA service