The Telegraph
Saturday , April 5 , 2014
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CM targets BJP, steps in to clear Dola way

Asansol, April 4: Mamata Banerjee today addressed three back-to-back rallies in Asansol for Trinamul nominee Dola Sen amid murmurs that the chief minister was focusing on the constituency as the BJP was expected to do well there because of a high concentration of Hindi-speaking voters.

Although the BJP’s vote share in Asansol was around 5.56 per cent in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the party could do better in this year’s general election because of several reasons, including feud between Trinamul factions, sources in the ruling party said.

At the rallies in Kulti, Raniganj and Salanpur, Mamata attacked the BJP and its prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, but did not name him.

“Don’t talk about the BJP. Jo paise deke publicity karte hain, danga karte hain, aag lagate hain — woh zindagi mein kabhi pradhan mantri nahin ban sakte (Those who spend money to get publicity, those who incite riots and start fires — they can never become Prime Minister),” Mamata said at the Kulti rally.

The chief minister furnished figures to compare her development model with that of Gujarat’s, drawing attention to Bengal’s “higher revenue generation” and lower infant mortality rate and Gujarat’s maritime advantage over her state. Mamata also spoke about agitations against land acquisition in Gujarat and emphasised her hands-off land policy.

At Raniganj, Mamata spoke out against divisive politics, without naming either the BJP or Modi. “Divisive politics should not be allowed here. A true leader should be acceptable to all,” she said.

The Asansol Lok Sabha constituency has a Hindi-speaking population of around 30 per cent and Mamata is aware that many of them could vote for the BJP, the Trinamul sources said.

According to a senior Trinamul leader, Mamata was initially supposed to address rallies in Kulti and Salanpur, but added Raniganj to her itinerary as the BJP had got a sizeable number of votes in the coal town in the 2009 elections.

“The BJP candidate’s road shows are drawing many people, especially college-goers. Mamatadi is our strongest crowd-puller. So she had to come here,” the leader said.

Mamata is almost certain to raise the pitch against Modi in the next few days as the Gujarat chief minister is scheduled to make his third visit to Bengal on April 10, the sources said. After Modi’s campaign rally in Siliguri, Mamata is scheduled to travel to north Bengal.

The Trinamul sources said countering the BJP was not the sole reason behind Mamata laying “special emphasis” on Asansol.

“Dola is a close aide of Didi and she wants her to win by a handsome margin. Didi is aware that Dola’s nomination has not gone down well with a section of local Trinamul leaders,” a source said, adding that it was unusual for the chief minister to address three rallies for one candidate.

Dola amaar khub priyo. Jani-mani hasti hain (Dola is dear to me. She is a well-known figure). Singur, Nandigram — she was with me in many movements,” Mamata said.

Besides fighting sitting CPM MP Bangsha Gopal Chowdhury and the BJP’s Babul Supriyo, state INTTUC president Dola also has to tackle the “outsider” tag and internal feud.

Neither of the two top Trinamul leaders in Asansol — agriculture minister Malay Ghatak and local mayor Tapas Banerjee — were present on the Kulti dais when Mamata called Dola, who was busy managing the crowd. Ghatak and mayor Banerjee, who do not see eye to eye, had already left for the other meeting venues. But Mamata sent out a message loud and clear: Dola was her choice for the seat.

Trinamul leaders close to the chief minister said she knew about the discontent at Dola’s candidature and the infighting in the industrial belt, and decided to intervene before it was too late.

In the last Lok Sabha elections, the CPM had won the Asansol seat by a margin of around 80,000 votes.

According to the Trinamul sources, although polling in Asansol will be held on May 7, Mamata decided to step in at the earliest.

“Things have not been going very well here. On March 29, local leaders failed to bring enough supporters to a road show at Pandaveswar. During several workers’ meetings, Dola had to wait for hours before local leaders arrived,” a Trinamul source said.