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regular-article-logo Saturday, 15 June 2024

Suvendu Adhikari faces challenge to deliver five Lok Sabha seats in undivided Midnapore to Narendra Modi

Suvendu’s success in this LS polls will also determine whether saffron camp will surpass tally of 18 seats that it secured in 2019, which has been the party’s best performance in Bengal so far

Anshuman Phadikar Tamluk Published 23.05.24, 06:26 AM
Suvendu Adhikari takes part in a road show in East Midnapore’s Contai

Suvendu Adhikari takes part in a road show in East Midnapore’s Contai Picture by Kanishka Maity

Suvendu Adhikari, the BJP’s Bengal face and the leader of the Opposition, is facing his biggest challenge in this election — delivering five Lok Sabha seats in undivided Midnapore to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“The BJP had already won Jhargram and Midnapore in the 2019 elections. His challenge is to retain those two seats and ensure victory in the remaining three (Ghatal, Contai and Tamluk) in the so-called Adhikari bastion,” a senior BJP leader in Calcutta said.

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Undivided Midnapore spans East Midnapore, West Midnapore and Jhargram — a region considered Suvendu’s backyard. He played a pivotal role in the formation of the first Mamata Banerjee government in 2011 by sweeping the majority of the seats from the then CPM stronghold.

Midnapore was divided in 2002 into two districts — East and West Midnapore. In 2017, Jhargram was carved out of West Midnapore.

Suvendu’s success in this Lok Sabha polls will also determine whether the saffron camp will surpass the tally of 18 seats that it secured in 2019, which has been the party’s best performance in Bengal so far.

BJP insiders said the party was depending heavily on Suvendu to win the five seats that will vote in the sixth phase on May 25.

Political experts explain why these five seats are important for the BJP.

First, this has been known to be a Trinamool bastion since the 2011 Assembly polls. The TMC had won two Lok Sabha seats — Tamluk and Contai — both in East Midnapore — in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. Though the Left Front had retained three Lok Sabha seats in 2009 out of these five, the TMC won the majority of the seats in undivided Midnapore in 2011. Since then, it has been considered a TMC stronghold. The BJP has to capture this region to deliver a blow to Trinamool in south Bengal.

Second, Trinamool gained ground here as the party aligns with the anti-land acquisition sentiment in the area. If the BJP defeats the TMC in the region that houses Nandigram, it would be a moral victory for the saffron camp.

Suvendu has also admitted in his close circle that it would be his biggest challenge to defeat the TMC in his backyard. The Telegraph tried to contact Suvendu, but he did not pick up the phone.

A close associate of Suvendu said he was placing utmost importance on these five seats and has held at least 100 meetings in the region in the past one and a half months.

“He also ensured that Modi held two meetings for these five seats. The third meeting supposed to be held at Haldia could not be organised as his helicopter could not land owing to bad weather. Union home minister Amit Shah attended three rallies in the region based on Suvendu’s wish,” he said.

Even though Suvendu is leaving no stone unturned, clinching these five seats appears to be a tall task for him as the TMC has put its best foot forward to put up a tough fight.

In 2019, the BJP won two seats — Midnapore and Jhargram — out of the five. But Trinamool successfully won back much of its lost foothold in the 2021 Assembly polls. The TMC bagged 26 out of the 35 Assembly seats in undivided Midnapore.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the TMC secured 42.3 per cent votes in the Midnapore constituency but lost to the BJP’s Dilip Ghosh who secured 48.66 per cent votes. In the 2021 Assembly polls, the TMC restored some of its lost ground by securing 48.78 per cent of the votes, pushing down the BJP to 44.22 per cent.

The story is almost the same in Jhargram where the TMC secured 50.63 per cent of the votes in 2021 compared with 43.7 per cent in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The BJP came down to 37.92 per cent in 2021 from 44.61 per cent in 2019.

In Contai and Tamluk, the BJP managed to increase its vote percentage in the 2021 Assembly polls and pushed the TMC to the second position.

Winning the five seats is a prestige issue for Suvendu who has chosen the candidates and finalised the campaign strategy. Suvendu even forced the BJP central leadership to remove the sitting MPs from Midnapore and Jhargram — Dilip Ghosh and Kunar and Hemram — to field Aginimitra Paul.

While Ghosh was shifted to Burdwan-Durgapur, Hemram was denied a ticket, prompting him to join Trinamool.

“So if Suvendu fails to give the BJP at least four out of these five seats, his credibility would come into serious question,” said a BJP insider.

BJP sources said Suvendu had gained importance in the party after defeating Mamata in the 2021 Assembly polls. “However, his importance in the party is not undisputed because differences have cropped up between him and BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar. If Suvendu fails to deliver in the Lok Sabha polls, his credibility would come under the scanner,” said a BJP insider.

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