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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 16 April 2024

Bengal Elections 2021: Poll battle between one-time colleagues

Sujit Bose’s biggest challenge is to win over the 19,000-odd votes BJP had got in 2019 Lok Sabha polls and defeat Sabyasachi Dutta

Snehal Sengupta Calcutta Published 16.04.21, 01:48 AM
Trinamul’s Sujit Bose campaigns in Salt Lake’s Baisakhi on Wednesday; (right) the BJP’s Sabyasachi Dutta  campaigns in Salt Lake.

Trinamul’s Sujit Bose campaigns in Salt Lake’s Baisakhi on Wednesday; (right) the BJP’s Sabyasachi Dutta campaigns in Salt Lake. Pictures by Pradip Sanyal

Bidhannagar MLA and fire services minister Sujit Bose’s biggest challenge is to win over the 19,000-odd votes the BJP had got in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and defeat Sabyasachi Dutta, who was once his colleague in Trinamul but now fighting the Assembly elections as a BJP candidate.

Trinamul’s Bose had won the Bidhannagar Assembly seat in 2016 by 6,988 votes, defeating Arunava Ghosh of the Left-Congress alliance. The BJP’s Sushanta Ranjan Pal had come third, polling 21,735 votes.

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The BJP had turned the tables in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls — its candidate from the Barasat Lok Sabha seat, Mrinal Kanti Debnath, was ahead of Trinamul’s Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar by 18,916 votes in the Bidhannagar assembly segment. The Left finished a distant third.

A swing of more than 19,000 votes is needed for Bose to retain his seat, which goes to the polls on Saturday.

A third candidate in the fray is Abhisek Banerjee of the Congress.

Bose, in his bid for a third successive win from Bidhannagar, has been trying to woo residents of planned areas like Salt Lake as well as those living on fringe areas like Duttabad, Dakshindari and added areas behind Bangur and Dum Dum.

At multiple rallies he has assured residents of Duttabad, Dakshindari and the areas behind Lake Town and Bangur that they are not “outsiders or encroachers”.

The Trinamul has been promising these people benefits like patta — or land rights — and highlighting state government schemes such as Swasthya Sathi, Kanyasree and Sabuj Sathi. The BJP’s Dutta, a former mayor of the Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation, has said he would carry out eviction and demolition drives to free pavements of encroachments.

“I will give land pattas to those who are living in Duttabad for years without any security. I will also provide all civic services to the area…. On the other hand, the BJP candidate, who used to be the mayor of the Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation, had tried to evict these people and even tried to snap their water supply and electricity lines,” Bose told Metro on Thursday.

Duttabad has more than 10,200 houses, most of which are single-storeyed. Though more than 50,000 men and women live there, the voters total 8,500.

Most of them used to vote for the CPM during the Left Front regime for security and to ensure that no eviction drive was launched.

A Trinamul member who used to be a CPM councillor said that during the Left regime, they would bank on these votes to counter those cast by residents of planned areas like Salt Lake.

The BJP, on the other hand, has run a campaign to negate the image of being an outsider, often questioning their nationality and terming them as “Bangladeshis with forged documents”.

On Thursday, Dutta, the outgoing Rajarhat New Town MLA, who switched sides from Trinamul to the BJP in 2019, said: “This vote is a walkover match for me. In the 2019 general elections, there was a 5-7 per cent vote swing because of Narendra Modiji’s image. There was no alternative to him as people sought a stable government. This time the issues are local and Bose is also chairman of South Dum Dum Municipality, where very little actual development has taken place. He has only focussed on organising pujas.”

Drinking water is a major issue in several wards in South Dum Dum Municipality, Dutta said. Drainage is a problem in areas behind the Haldirams bus stop on VIP Road. The entire stretch gets waterlogged after showers.

Several huts behind Central Park were demolished in 2017 for the Calcutta Book Fair. Dutta alleged that Bose had helped the evicted settlers settle on a plot near City Centre.

“This is a prime piece of land in one of the poshest areas of Salt Lake and Bose helped encroachers, who are Bangladeshis, settle there. I had decorated Salt Lake in the run-up to the FIFA Under-17 World Cup,” said Dutta.

“We were also selected to be a Smart City under a central scheme but that was scrapped. If I win, I will focus on providing world class facilities and developing the entire area from scratch. I will also set up hawking zones in places where people will be able to sell things. At the end of the day’s sales, they will have to take away their wares.”

Many residents of Salt Lake, however, are opposed to the “outsider” plank because people from multiple places have settled in the township.

“Salt Lake per se has no original residents. When people started pouring in, a new community was formed. Nearly everyone who stays here was once an outsider,” said Kumar Shankar Sadhu, a member of the Salt Lake Residents’ Association who stays in GD block.

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