The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CPM bags Uttarpara, Congress comes third

Sept 29: The CPM today wrested the Uttarpara Assembly seat from the Trinamul Congress when Jyoti Krishna Chatterjee defeated Indrajit Ghosh, his nearest rival, by more than 16,000 votes in the byelection held on Saturday.

Congress nominee Adhir Mukherjee forfeited his deposit in a four-cornered contest that the Opposition parties alleged was “totally rigged”. The fourth candidate, Jamirul Islamanu of Janata Dal (Secular), also failed to save his deposit, polling only 3,313 votes. Chatterjee polled 66,826 votes, Ghosh got 50,648.

The outcome of the bypoll, necessitated by the death of Trinamul legislator Swaraj Mukherjee, shows that Trinamul continues to be the main Opposition party in the state despite the reverses suffered in the panchayat polls. Trinamul nominees had occupied the second position in the subsequent byelections to the Nabadwip Lok Sabha seat and the Vidyasagar Assembly constituency in Calcutta.

The Congress candidate at Vidyasagar had to forfeit deposit despite a forceful campaign by senior party leaders.

From the result in Uttarpara, it is clear that the Congress and Trinamul lost a chunk of votes to the CPM.

Mukherjee had won the seat by a margin of 1,738 votes in the 2001 Assembly elections when Trinamul had forged an alliance with the Congress. The CPM nominee took advantage of the division in the Opposition camp this time not only to wrest the seat but also win it by a substantial margin. Uttarpara, however, happens to be a Marxist stronghold. The party has won all the elections there since Independence but for the setback in 2001.

The CPM attributed the latest victory to “the people’s overwhelming support” but Congress and Trinamul leaders charged the Marxists with resorting to unfair means. “The result has once again confirmed our contention that no free and fair election is possible in Bengal under CPM rule,” said Pankaj Banerjee, the leader of Opposition in the Assembly.

Trinamul general secretary Madan Mitra, who was in charge of the party’s electioneering, charged the Congress with playing second fiddle to the CPM.

Observers attributed the CPM win to “cadre power” and divisions within Trinamul. A section of Trinamul workers, who were not happy over Ghosh’s nomination, did not give their “hundred per cent” on poll day, paving the way for the CPM candidate, said sources.

Local Trinamul workers wanted the party to field Dilip Yadav, the organisational secretary of the Trinamul Youth Congress, but the move was opposed by Serampore MP and Hooghly leader of the party Akbar Ali Khondakar, sources said.

State Congress leader Pradip Bhattacharya said: “It’s a disaster. We have to rethink our strategy and strengthen the organisation.”

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