11 and counting, CM sweats it out - Buddha takes no chances in own seat ahead of 'tough' Assembly elections

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By ANINDYA SENGUPTA
  • Published 7.04.11
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Calcutta, April 6: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is taking no chances in a bid to get re-elected from his Jadavpur Assembly constituency.

Consider this: Bhattacharjee has already held 11 meetings (with more to follow) in the constituency since the declaration of election dates on March 1, though he had attended only six rallies in the run-up to the 2006 Assembly polls.

This indicates just how tough Bhattacharjee thinks his election to the Jadavpur constituency, from where he has been winning since 1987, is going to be.

The chief minister has been criss-crossing his constituency and holding meetings over the past one month, trying to convince his voters not to cross over to the Trinamul Congress fold.

“The pressure this time is tremendous,” said a close aide of Bhattacharjee. “The chief minister knows that this is going to be one of the toughest battles of his political career. If there is a wave in favour of Trinamul this time, like it was for the Congress in the 1984 Lok Sabha elections after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. An individual, no matter who he is, is unlikely to matter. The vote is going to go to a particular party.”

Party leaders pointed out that in the 1984 elections, a political novice, Ashutosh Law, had defeated CPM veteran Niren Ghosh in Dum Dum only because of the sympathy wave blowing in favour of the Congress.

CPM sources said not only the party but even Bhattacharjee realised that a Left win from a Calcutta seat was not going to come easy.

“A win from Calcutta is going to be a very tough call for the Left,” a CPM leader said. “The 2009 Lok Sabha polls and the civic polls last year also indicate this.”

In the 2006 Assembly polls, retired IAS officer Dipak Ghosh fought against Bhattacharjee on a Trinamul ticket and lost by 58,000 votes.

The picture, however, is starkly different this time with the erosion in CPM’s vote bank.

In the 2009 parliamentary elections, the CPM’s lead from the Jadavpur Assembly segment dropped to around 19,000 votes. What’s worse for Bhattacharjee is that the CPM trailed Trinamul in six of the 10 wards of the segment in the 2010 Calcutta Municipal Corporation polls.

So, former chief secretary Manish Gupta, who is pitted against the chief minister this time, may fare better than Ghosh did five years ago.

The chief minister is worried also because Jadavpur CPM strongman Kanti Ganguly hasn’t thrown his weight behind him, a party leader said. The differences between the two leaders have been known in party circles for some years now.

“Kantida is the soul of Jadavpur,” a local CPM leader said. “He comes to the help of people regardless of their party loyalty. When he gives a call to our workers to come out on the streets, they listen without asking a question. It’s unfortunate that our party hasn’t yet been able to use him effectively for Buddha babu so far.’’

However, the “silver lining” for the CPM is that Gupta is not a “strong” candidate and that he is a political novice, and Bhattacharjee intends to make the most of this by campaigning “intensely” in his constituency.

“It’s an all-out campaign for Buddhada now,” said Khokon Ghosh Dastidar, the CPM leader in-charge of Bhattacharjee’s campaign in Jadavpur. “He has addressed a good number of meetings. He is separately meeting workers, teachers and sections of the poor. His meetings are attracting crowds. He is reaching out to the common man. People of Jadavpur know how sincere he is about his constituency.’’

Asked why so much effort is being put in by the chief minister in this election, Ghosh Dastidar said: “Last time, the Jadavpur constituency had 14 wards. This has come down to 10 after delimitation. So, Buddhada is getting more time in each ward. Hence, more meetings and interactions.”

Also, in what appears to be straight out of Trinamul leader Mamata Banerjee’s campaign stylebook, Bhattacharjee will be in the midst of party workers, leading a CPM procession from Jadavpur to Kamalgazi, near Sonarpur, which is a 6km stretch, on Saturday.

“This is not the chief minister’s normal style of campaigning,” a party leader said. “So let’s hope all this, and the hard work he is putting in, clicks and he wins the polls.”

Website launched

Bhattacharjee has launched a website, www.buddhadebbhattacharjee.net, on which he will answer public queries. One can get a view of Bhattacharjee’s life, access video clips of his speeches at various rallies and meetings and browse through other related images.