By Tirthankar Mitra
A combination of nationalism and neglect of north Bengal will be the twin issues on which BJP seeks to retain Dhupguri Assembly constituency in north Bengal. Strategically located near Nepal and Bangladesh, a by-election is scheduled to be held in this Assembly segment on September 5. The results will be announced on September 8.
Ever since the passing of local BJP legislator, Bishnupada Roy in July, the saffron camp has gone all out to retain Dhupguri. For a start, its choice of Tapasi Roy, a Pulwama clash widow has given it a start over its Trinamool Congress and CPI(M) rivals in this by-election.
Jalpaiguri MP for BJP Jayanta Roy underscored the point saying that the choice of candidates of both the rivals of the saffron camp is a pointer to the fact that nationalism is not high in their agenda. Given the supreme sacrifice of her husband, Tapasi has been the first choice of our party in this by-election, he said.
Neither Ishwar Chandra Roy, the CPI(M) nominee nor Nirmal Chandra Roy the TMC candidate have anything to show as their nationalist credentials. This has been the cornerstone of the BJP poll campaign so far.
Late Bishnupada Roy who won as BJP nominee from this seat in 2021 was a nationalist too, a senior leader said. But the party nominee in the by-poll having lost her husband in the border war will appeal to a greater cross section of voters..She is a local and the voters in the constituency consider her as the widow of the Pulwama martyr.
Though the TMC camp is upbeat after learning party MP from Diamond Harbour and chief minister, Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee will campaign for Nirmal Roy, no plan of action has yet been agreed upon till date to blunt the edge of BJP poll campaign. Both coincidence and happenstance have combined to give Tapasi Roy a lead over her political rival as of now..
The background of Kargil war together with details of Pulwama battle in which the BJP nominee’s husband was martyred are planned to be focused on elaborately during the campaign, it was learnt from BJP sources. The fact that a war widow is seeking the people’s support is another aspect planned to be highlighted all through the campaign.
The BJP campaign planners have the women voters as one of their prime target in this by-election. Women will have a natural sympathy for a widow especially one whose husband died in the act of defending the country’s borders, former state BJP chief, Rahul Sinha said.
Moreover, the local Rajbanshi populace in this constituency reserved for scheduled caste nominees, have a long tradition of joining the armed forces, it was learnt. The thinking in the saffron camp is that this tradition will turn the choice of voters who hitherto voted for other non BJP political parties.
Neglect of north Bengal especially the portion of it going to vote on September 5 will be the other line of campaign of the BJP. The break-up of the issue will comprise closed tea gardens, reduction of employment opportunities and state government inaction to resolve the issue.
Closure of a section of Samsing tea garden and alleged removal of some machines have fuelled workers unrest in the area. The irate workers had gheraoed Meteli police station to give vent to their grievances.
The BJP campaign managers seek to highlight this issue. Moreover, participation of newly elected Rajya Sabha MP Ananta Maharaj is likely to add pitch to the canvassing of votes for Tapasi Roy.
The party leadership has forbidden Ananta Maharaj not to raise the statehood issue in his speeches. We are aware this may have the support of a section of voters but will alienate a greater portion of our supporters, a senior BJP leader said.
A considerable number of displaced populace from erstwhile East Pakistan have settled in this area. Though nationalism is close to their heart, the possibility of further bifurcation of West Bengal will alienate them, a senior BJP leader felt.
Though the BJP is apparently not paying much attention, the party is chary of Taramoni Roy, a dissident who is contesting the by-elections. She has been a winner of the rural polls and the widow of a BJP leader who died in a poll clash. In a highly contested by poll against the TMC, even a small desertion of BJP voters in favour of the dissident candidate, will adversely affect the fortunes of the official candidate Tapasi Roy.
Given the impressive TMC victories in the rural polls and the fact in the last assembly polls, the TMC candidate lost by only 4,000 votes, the BJP’s chances of retaining Dhupguri appears to be slim. Trinamool won in 66 seats in the gram panchayat under Dhupguri assembly constituency while eight were won by BJP. But the saffron camp leaders lay the blame of its miserable performance at the door of intimidation by TMC workers.. It will be a different scenario in the by-poll with presence of central forces, they say.
Intra-party squabbles as manifest in a dissident from BJP contesting the polls and our wider support base will ensure a Trinamool victory, state agriculture minister and veteran TMC leader Sovandeb Chattopadhay said. TMC has a strong organizational base in the area and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee has asked the district leaders to ensure that the BJP is defeated. She needs Dhupguri seat to show to the INDIA Alliance leaders that TMC alone can defeat BJP even in its sitting constituency.
As regards the third candidate Iswar Chandra Roy of the CPIM) supported by the Congress, he is not much relevant in the contest which is bilateral between BJP and the TMC. In last assembly elections, the CPIM) candidate forfeited his security deposit. In this by poll also, thins are not any better. The party is talking of turnaround in media but in rural areas, this is hardly noticeable. The Congress high command is monitoring this by poll as its outcome will help them in assessing their stand about the future nature of alliance in Bengal for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. (IPA Service)