Bengal by-polls: Beleaguered Left faces another challenge

November 6th, 2009 - 3:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Mamata Banerjee Kolkata, Nov 6 (IANS) With the Left fast losing its grip over West Bengal under the assault of the Trinamool Congress-led opposition, the by-polls to 10 assembly seats Saturday will be a trailer to the elections in the state in 2011.
After 32 long years in power, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left Front is facing its gravest crisis, having lost ground in all elections in the state over the past 18 months.

The going could again be tough for the ruling combine in the by-polls as the opposition - despite the Congress and the Trinamool fighting separately - had managed to win seven of the 10 constituencies in the last assembly elections in 2006.

The Trinamool Congress of Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee is getting increasingly aggressive in its political posturing and activism and is bent on ousting the Left Front in the 2011 elections.

The state has been witnessing political violence between the ruling CPI-M and the opposition party since the April-May Lok Sabha polls.

Banerjee has also launched a bewildering array of projects by utilising her portfolio - be it the construction of a sports stadium, or the setting up of a hospital in addition to regular railway projects like new coach factories, trains, reservation centres and upgradation of stations - to project herself capable of ushering in development if her party was voted to power.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is also undertaking regular visits to the districts to discuss development initiatives as he makes one last ditch attempt to revive the Left Front’s sagging electoral fortunes.

When seen as segments of Lok Sabha constituencies, the opposition led in nine of the 10 seats and the Left Front in one.

Nine of the assembly seats fell vacant as the sitting MLAs were elected to the Lok Sabha, while CPI-M’s popular leader Subhas Chakraborty’s death necessitated by-polls to the Belgachia (East) constituency.

The CPI-M has nominated Chakaraborty’s widow Ramala for the by-poll, against the late leader’s one-time disciple and now Trinamool Congress leader Sujit Bose.

Chakraborty had scraped through with a margin of 1,500 votes in 2006, but the Trinamool took a strong lead from the segment in the Lok Sabha elections.

The other nine seats are Kalchini (Scheduled Tribe), Rajganj (Scheduled Caste), Sujapur, Goalpokhar, Bongaon, Contai South, Egra, Serampore and Alipore.

The CPI-M and Trinamool are contesting five and seven, respectively. The others have been left for the Left Front allies and the Congress.

In view of the surcharged political atmosphere in the state, the Election Commission has decided to depute paramilitary personnel in all the booths of the 10 constituencies.

Both the Left Front and the opposition launched intense campaigns for the seats. Candidates went from door to door, while front-ranking leaders addressed meetings and led colourful processions to woo the voters.

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