Calcutta, Feb. 22: Trinamul and the Congress are for the first time since the 2011 Assembly elections pitted against each other in tomorrow’s bypolls as the Left waits in the wings hoping to pip the former allies because of a split in non-Left votes.
The big question on the eve of the bypolls in Nalhati, Rejinagar and Englishbazar is whether Trinamul, which broke away from the UPA government in September last year, can pull it off on its own.
In Nalhati, the Congress will contest to retain the seat that fell vacant after President Pranab Mukherjee’s son Abhijit, the then party MLA from there, was elected to the Lok Sabha from the Jangipur parliamentary seat.
In Rejinagar and Englishbazar, the bypolls will decide the fate of two ministers of Mamata Banerjee’s cabinet — Humayan Kabir and Krishnendu Chowdhury. Both the Congress MLAs switched to Trinamul last year, necessitating fresh elections.
The results on February 28 will also reflect whether the Mamata Banerjee government’s sops to the minority community have paid dividends as all the three Assembly constituencies have substantial minority population.
What is also crucial to the three byelections, which come months before the panchayat polls, is whether the BJP can pose a spoiler to the non-Left parties by carving away a sizeable portion of the votes.
BJP leaders have claimed that non-Left voters are increasingly turning to their party.
Trinamul admits that a split in the non-Left votes could affect its prospects.
A Trinamul minister told The Telegraph: “In the 2011 Assembly polls, Trinamul and the Congress combine got 48 per cent of the votes and defeated the Left. Now that we are no longer in the alliance, there is an amount of uncertainty about the fate of all the three Trinamul candidates.”
However, he added that the popularity of Mamata Banerjee was “so high” that the party could ride over the Congress and emerge victorious.
According to another Trinamul leader, although the bypolls are a “prestige” fight with the Congress, in “real terms” it would not matter if the ruling party lost all the three seats as they are held by the Congress and it would not affect Trinamul’s tally in the Assembly.
Congress MLA Manas Bhunia today said: “The bypolls are a test of how polarised the polls would be after our alliance with Trinamul broke.”
The CPM appeared wary about commenting on the poll’s outcome. Asked whether a split in the non-Left votes would help the Left, CPM state secretariat member Mohammad Salim said: “We will be happy if we win but it is better not to predict anything now.”