Behrampore, Nov. 21: Murshidabad Congress strongman Adhir Chowdhury has fielded fresh faces for the Behrampore civic polls, a time-tested formula adopted by the party to stop the Trinamul juggernaut.
Of the total 28 Congress candidates in Behrampore, 24 are new faces. The Congress had won the previous three polls, held in 1998, 2003 and 2008, riding on fresh faces.
While Chowdhury appears confident of retaining the civic body for the fourth time, Trinamul leaders say the state’s ruling party will “open its account” this year. Although not in the fray, the poll is a fight between Chowdhury and Mamata Banerjee.
The Behrampore polls tomorrow come at a time Trinamul has snatched eight civic bodies from the Congress in the past six months, “engineering” defections. Although Trinamul has succeeded in making inroads across the state, Murshidabad is still an area where the Congress is a force to reckon with.
“Dada (Chowdhury) feels that the electorate may have grievances against those who served them in the last five years. So, he thinks a sizeable number of fresh candidates could easily earn the people’s confidence,” said Ashok Das, the Murshidabad district Congress secretary and one of Chowdhury’s close aides.
That the junior railway minister is leaving no stone unturned for winning the Behrampore civic board for the fourth time was evident from his prolonged stay in the town.
Chowdhury was scheduled to leave for Raipur in Chhattisgarh on November 6 to address campaign meetings for the Assembly polls, but cancelled it.
“My one-point agenda is to ensure the Congress wins all 28 seats in Behrampore. I stayed back here to steer the party’s campaign,” said Chowdhury, who has been addressing five to six meetings daily for over a fortnight now.
Considering that Behrampore is where the Congress is still a force, the party leadership, reeling from a series of defections, has thrown its weight behind Chowdhury.
Senior Congress leaders, including junior central ministers Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury and Deepa Das Munshi, have campaigned for party nominees in Behrampore.
“We are making all efforts to retain the Behrampore civic board. This would send a message to party ranks across the state that the Congress is still a force to reckon with here,” state Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya said.
Trinamul, on the other hand, says “things have changed” in Behrampore.
“We have not been able to emerge as a formidable force in Behrampore. But things have changed now,” said Trinamnul’s Murshidabad district president Mohammed Ali.
Humayun Kabir, a former junior minister who lost to the Congress nominee in the February by poll, went a step further.
“Trinamul will not only open its account in Behrampore but also emerge as a determining factor after the civic polls,” he said.
However, going by the panchayat poll results, Trinamul is a dwindling force in Murshidabad. In the rural elections, Trinamul bagged only one panchayat samiti of the total 26 and 18 gram panchayats out of 254. In the zilla parishads, the party got only a single seat out of a total of 70.