Mamata Banerjee’s home turf bypoll vexes Bengal BJP leaders
BJP Bengal leaders couldn’t seem to hide their anger on Saturday over the Election Commission of India’s decision to hold the bypoll to the Bhowanipore Assembly constituency on September 30, from where Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee is slated to contest.
Mamata, who steered her party to victory for the third time but lost a contentious poll from Nandigram to BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari, has to win an Assembly seat by November 5 or within six months of her swearing-in, to remain the chief minister under constitutional norms. Her home turf being Bhowanipur, the result seems a foregone conclusion.
The BJP state leadership, bitterly against the idea of Mamata’s victory, caught off-guard by the EC’s announcement, wasted no time in attacking the poll panel and dub its decision “unjustified”. “This decision is not justified...There would have been no constitutional problem if the bypoll at Bhowanipore wasn’t held now as (contrary to what was) cited by the chief secretary of the state (H.K. Dwivedi), since there would have been no change in the party ruling the state,” BJP state president and Midnapore MP Dilip Ghosh said.
He added it was “not the EC’s job” to ensure that someone in particular remains the chief minister of a state. “The EC’s job is to ensure free and fair elections,” he said.
Asked if his party would move court against the EC’s decision, Ghosh said the party would discuss the future course of action.
Ghosh, however, said his party would participate in the bypoll. Sources in the BJP said they would meet either on September 6 or 7 to discuss probable names for the bypolls.
BJP’s Nandigram MLA and Bengal’s leader of the Opposition Adhikari hit out at the chief secretary.
“We will make this an issue. He cannot write this being the state chief secretary...Out of 294 assemblies in the state only seven are not represented. How will it create a constitutional problem?” Adhikari said.
This is the first time since the Assembly polls that the BJP lashed out against the EC.
It was evident from both Ghosh and Adhikari’s comments that the party had expected that the EC would respond favourably to their objection against the bypoll at Bhowanipore.
Bengal BJP leaders, especially Ghosh and Adhikari, had repeatedly said that Bengal’s political environment wasn’t fit for bypolls at the moment, referring to the pandemic or the alleged post-poll violence. However, the BJP also demanded that the civic polls be held before the bypolls. Eight reasons for their objection were sent to the central leadership and the EC as well.
Their efforts fell flat when the poll panel announced the bypoll to Bhowanipore and two others of the seven seats on Saturday. “This is bizarre. During the polls the EC practically toed our line... suddenly it appears to have gone against us and it is surprising,” said a state BJP functionary.
Minister and Trinamul general-secretary Partha Chatterjee, responding to the BJP, said: “Ask them if they are disheartened, scared or afraid of our leader (Mamata)...”
The Congress welcomed the decision. The CPM demanded that dates for civic polls also be announced.
“We demanded timely bypolls and that is being done...Constitutional obligations must be fulfilled on time,” said Congress MP Pradip Bhattacharya.
CPM’s Sujan Chakraborty also welcomed the poll panel’s decision but said: "Why are the four other Assembly segments, where bypolls, are due left out? Also, when will the state government give a go ahead for civic polls?”