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regular-article-logo Monday, 15 April 2024

Subdivision vs identity politics in Dhupguri bypoll: A litmus test for parties ahead of Lok Sabha elections

After the bypoll was announced last month, along with six other Assembly constituencies of other states, the demand to carve a new subdivision in Dhupguri gained ground

Avijit Sinha Siliguri Published 05.09.23, 06:24 AM
An all-woman team of polling personnel on the second campus of North Bengal University in Jalpaiguri on Monday, a day before the Dhupguri bypoll.

An all-woman team of polling personnel on the second campus of North Bengal University in Jalpaiguri on Monday, a day before the Dhupguri bypoll. Biplab Basak

The Assembly bypoll in Dhupguri to be held on Tuesday has become something of a political test as both Trinamul and the BJP are keen to win the seat ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

While ruling Trinamul is banking on the commitment made by the party’s national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee that Dhupguri will be upgraded to subdivisional headquarters in Jalpaiguri district within December 31 and the state government's welfare schemes, the BJP has played the polarisation card to woo Rajbanshi votes.

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In Dhupguri, Rajbanshis comprise around 60 per cent of voters.

Not surprisingly, the candidates of the BJP, Trinamul and Congress-Left combine are all from the community.

The BJP candidate, Tapasi Roy, is the wife of a slain CRPF jawan. Trinamul candidate Nirmal Chandra Roy is a college professor. The Congress-backed CPI(M) candidate, Ishwar Chandra Roy, is a teacher and folk singer.

After the bypoll was announced last month, along with six other Assembly constituencies of other states, the demand to carve a new subdivision in Dhupguri gained ground.

A number of social organisations and citizens’ forums underscored the issue with posters and rallies.

As of now, there are two subdivisions in Jalpaiguri, Sadar and Malbazar.

Political parties were quick to pick up the issue. Trinamul, the BJP and the Left-Congress alliance separately agreed to take forward the demand if their party won.

“However, the announcement made by Abhishek Banerjee on September 2 where he confirmed that the state will create the subdivision, mounted pressure on other political parties. As he met his commitments to the tea population of this region last year, there is a chance of a swing towards Trinamul,” said a political veteran of Dhupguri.

In 2021, BJP candidate Bishnupada Roy had won by a margin of 4,355 votes. He died this July.

The Dhupguri source said after Abhishek's announcement, some social organisations put up posters to thank him.

“Many in these organisations may have had Left or BJP leanings, but they put up banners to thank Abhishek. So the contest will be interesting,” he added.

The BJP, keen to retain the seat, focused on identity politics.

Recently, they slammed a recent remark of chief minister Mamata Banerjee where she gave an analogy of various body parts to explain the harmonious coexistence of different communities. But as she said her legs were the Rajbanshi and the Matua, the BJP picked on it to say Mamata insulted the Rajbanshis.

The BJP also engaged Nagendra Roy aka Ananta Maharaj, the new Rajya Sabha member from Cooch Behar who is believed to have clout among Rajbanshis, to campaign. It also called itself the party to send two Rajbanshis to Parliament, Anant Maharaj and Cooch Behar MP Nisith Pramanik.

On Sunday, the BJP inducted Rajbanshi leader and former Trinamul MLA Mitali Roy to woo the community despite protests by local BJP leaders.

“The party is playing the polarisation card like earlier elections. However, there are certain shortcomings...,” said Soumen Nag, a political researcher based in Siliguri, adding that BJP lawmakers elected from Rajbanshi-dominated areas couldn’t do much for their constituencies while the state government has done much in the way of social welfare schemes for the tea population. "It will be interesting to see if the tea population backs the BJP like before,” said Nag.

Additional reporting by our Jalpaiguri correspondent

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