Mamata Banerjee comfortably placed in Kolkata SouthMay 12th, 2009 - 6:39 pm ICT by IANS
Kolkata, May 12 (IANS) Her constituency has been redrawn to include many new areas and axe old strongholds. But as Kolkata South readied for the elections Wednesday, Trinamool Congress chief and the face of the opposition in West Bengal Mamata Banerjee looked perfectly placed for her sixth straight victory from the prized seat.
A string of factors — the Trinamool Congress-Congress alliance and the perceived tilt of the Muslims towards the opposition after the Rajinder Sachar committee’s criticism of the Left Front for the backwardness of the minority community in the state — has made Banerjee the favourite to win from her pocket borough which has both skyscrapers and large slums.
Fighting against her old foe Rabin Deb of the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Banerjee has been holding road shows and meetings in the constituency of 1.3 million electors in between criss-crossing the state as her party’s main campaigner.
“People of Kolkata South have always blessed me. They want me to campaign elsewhere. The CPI-M is bringing all its heavyweights. I have told my partymen to welcome them with tea. At least they will get to know the pulse of the people in my constituency,” Banerjee said.
Banerjee quit the Congress in 1998 to form her own outfit Trinamool Congress, which soon overtook the Congress to become the main opposition party in the state. She shifted to Kolkata South in 1991 after losing from Jadavpur in 1989. Since then, Banerjee has won all the Lok Sabha elections in 1991, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2004 with varying but comfortable margins.
In 2004, Banerjee defeated Deb by a reduced margin of about 99,000 votes during a difficult election for her party, which lost all the other seats it contested in partnership with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The alienation of the Muslims following the riots in BJP-ruled Gujarat, the Congress splitting the anti-Left votes and the middle classes warming up to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s promise of industrialisation are regarded as the causes for the decline in Banerjee’s votes.
Then came the delimitation exercise which saw the Muslim majority Kolkata Port as well as the CPI-M fort of Behala East and the Trinamool dominated Behala West added to the constituency.
Besides, a part of the Dhakuria and Tollygunj areas and majority of the suburban Sonarpur, which had given Banerjee strong leads in the past, have been axed from the seat.
However, Banerjee’s active campaign for bringing to book police officers allegedly responsible for the death of Muslim computer graphics teacher Rizwanur Rahman, who had married the daughter of a Hindu industrialist against her father’s wishes, and the agitation in the Muslim belt of Nandigram could garner her votes from the community.
The tie-up with the Congress - which got around 60,000 votes from the constituency in 2004 fighting alone - could add to her vote count and also enhance her Muslim support, though the CPI-M has been conducting an aggressive campaign trying to drive home the message that she could again sup with the saffron party after the polls.
Banerjee has been calling for change in the state, and pillorying the state government for forcibly grabbing fertile land from the farmers in the ruse of setting up industrial units. But, at the same time, careful not to antagonise the urban educated youth, she is taking pains to explain that her party is not against industrialisation.
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Tags: backwardness, bharatiya janata party, campaigner, communist party of india, communist party of india marxist, congress alliance, constituency, electors, heavyweights, jadavpur, lok sabha elections, main opposition party, minority community, rabin, rajinder, ruling communist party, sixth straight victory, strongholds, trinamool congress chief, west bengal