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Trinamul-BJP duel over Bengal tally in Presidential election

We are quite confident that several BJP MLAs will vote for our candidate, says Firhad Hakim

Arkamoy Datta Majumdar Calcutta Published 19.07.22, 01:14 AM
Mamata Banerjee casts her vote at the Assembly on Monday.

Mamata Banerjee casts her vote at the Assembly on Monday. Bishwarup Dutta

Tall claims by the Trinamul Congress and the BJP over the number of votes their candidates would bag in Bengal in the presidential election kept the day of the poll alive on Monday.

Bengal’s ruling party, which found itself with the precarious responsibility of backing the national Opposition candidate, Yashwant Sinha, kept locking horns with the state’s principal Opposition, which had the task of keeping its flagging morale high by ensuring some respectability in what the NDA’s Droupadi Murmu gets from here.


Senior minister and Trinamul heavyweight Firhad Hakim asserted that 84-year-old Sinha — a former BJP stalwart who quit as Trinamul national vice-president last month to contest the election — would receive a “historic lead” from Bengal.

“All Trinamul MLAs and MPs have been told to cast their vote here (at the Bengal Assembly). We will give Yashwantji historic lead from these hallowed halls. We are quite confident that several BJP MLAs will also vote for our candidate,” said Hakim.

On the other hand, Opposition leader Suvendu Adhikari said several Trinamul lawmakers would vote for Murmu.

“Total 291 MLAs (of the state’s 294) have cast their votes here. We have 70 MLAs, but Droupadiji will receive more than 70 MLAs’ votes… mark my words. Similarly, while we have 16 MPs from Bengal (in the Lok Sabha), she will receive the votes of at least 20 MPs,” claimed Adhikari.

Suvendu’s father Sisir and brother Dibyendu — Trinaul’s Contai and Tamluk MPs, respectively, — cast their votes at Parliament. Both have been deemed to have switched over to the BJP since the Nandigram MLA’s defection from Trinamul to the saffron camp.

Trinamul, which played a key role in Sinha’s nomination, has found itself in a bit of a spot since the BJP fielded Murmu, likely to become India’s first tribal woman to occupy the seat of President.

The BJP, otherwise confident of Murmu’s victory nationally, has the challenge of saving face by retaining support from its remaining 70-odd MLAs in Bengal — a tally fast depleting on account of defections to Trinamul.

“This is a rather predictable race as Droupadiji is likely to get over 60 per cent of the votes now. But Bengal being Bengal, there was no dearth of political theatrics, despite the polling day being a dead rubber,” said a senior member of the treasury benches.Confident of Murmu’s win, the BJP decided to hold victory rallies across India, especially in areas dominated by tribal communities, on July 21, the day of counting.

Adhikari said similar rallies would be held in Bengal as well.

The exercise is likely to lead to some political tension as it coincides with Trinamul’s Martyrs’ Day event to be held offline after a two-year hiatus.

The BJP’s Bengal co-minder Amit Malviya took to Twitter to claim that Trinamul had lodged an FIR against Suvendu “accusing him of trying to rig the Rashtrapati election”. He accused Trinamul of fear, of its MLAs cross-voting.

Trinamul national general-secretary Abhishek Banerjee said the BJP was free to move court and that Suvendu should first figure out where his father and brother stood before making lofty claims.

“They had to bring resort politics to Bengal, taking whatever members they have to a hotel. The BJP doesn’t even trust its own MLAs…. Resort politics has come to bite the BJP in the back. They are scared that their own legislators will leave them,” said the Diamond Harbour MP.Trinamul lodged at least one complaint with the chief electoral officer over the BJP’s use of a traditional tribal robe, panchi. The BJP MLAs had come sporting a panchi each, to show support for Murmu.

“It is prohibited to wear any symbol on the polling premises. Although the panchi isn’t a symbol, it is symbolic of a particular community and their candidate (Murmu) belongs to that community,” said state minister Chandrima Bhattacharya. Her cabinet colleague Shashi Panja said she had asked the Election Commission of India to take cognisance of the matter.

The BJP’s Sudip Mukherjee lodged a complaint against Abhishek for entering the Assembly premises with a convoy of 15-odd cars.

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