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Deepa versus brother-in-law in Raiganj

Deepa Das Munshi and brother-in-law Satya Ranjan

March 5: The battle in Raiganj is tipped to be Das Munshi versus Das Munshi in the Lok Sabha seat.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today announced that Priya Ranjan Das Munshi’s brother Satya Ranjan would be the Trinamul candidate from the seat. Congress MP and central junior minister Deepa, who is Priya Ranjan’s wife and Satya Ranjan’s sister-in-law, holds the seat now.

Deepa is also one of Mamata’s most vocal critics.

If Mamata’s gamble of pitting the brother-in-law against Deepa pays off, it could lead to splitting of the votes that have gone to the Das Munshis — first to Priya Ranjan and then to his wife — who have both been returned to the Lok Sabha from this constituency.

But the question is: Will the splitting of the Congress votes benefit the Left?

The answer would lie in how effectively Deepa can hold on to her base, assiduously cultivated by her ailing husband, which some say is now under threat.

North Dinajpur Congress leaders today said Raiganj is “untested territory” for Satya Ranjan since Trinamul has never contested from this seat. They also argued that Deepa regularly visits Raiganj and works in her constituency.

She has also fought a pitched battle with the state government over setting up a proposed AIIMS-like hospital in the area.

She took a group of farmers willing to hand over land for the hospital to Calcutta, which the Congress leaders believe has endeared her to the people of the constituency.

On the contrary, they point out that Satya Ranjan is an “outsider” to this constituency since he lives in Calcutta and rarely visits Raiganj.

“People here are totally unaware of him,” a Congress leader said. “He has only come here a couple of times since he joined Trinamul in November last year.”

Trinamul leaders here, however, said that like in other parts of north Bengal, the party is making steady inroads into North Dinajpur and point to last year’s panchayat poll results.

In the zilla parishad, where the Trinamul’s presence was nil, the party won five of the 26 seats. It split the Congress votes — the party won eight seats — which eventually led to the Left forming the board, wresting it from the Congress.

Satya Ranjan, who was in Raiganj for a day today to offer prayers at a local temple, told The Telegraph that Trinamul would improve on its performance.

“We will do well. I will be back soon and launch my campaign. People have seen Priyada working for the development of this district and now Mamata Banerjee is doing the same,” he said. “I would urge the people of this district to support me for the welfare of North Dinajpur which is one of the backward districts of the country.”

When asked what it feels like being pitted against his sister-in-law, Satya Ranjan said: “I am guided by the principles of Mamata Banerjee and would prefer not to comment on this issue. People of the district have seen the performance of their elected representative since Priyada fell ill. I hope they will judiciously exercise their franchise.”

Deepa said she finds a “sharp contradiction” in Satya Ranjan’s stand.

She told The Telegraph this evening: “I would only like to state that there is a sharp contradiction in his (Satya Ranjan’s) stand. First, he is reiterating that he is Priyada’s brother and on the other hand he has joined the Trinamul. When Priyada was active in politics he never compromised with the Trinamul on any issue.”

Late tonight, a CPM leader summed up the situation by saying, “Let the brother-in-law and sister-in-law fight each other. We hope to make it past the post.”