Prestige Battles Await BJP in Dinhata and Santipur with TMC Resurgent


Dinhata – a small town in West Bengal’s Cooch Behar district – is known for many things, including its rich history. There are palaces and temples here known for their elegance and grandeur, and it is also the birthplace of many noted personalities including Hossain Mohammad Ershad, former president of Bangladesh. Dipak Sengupta (former Forward Block MLA for four consecutive terms and chairman of the Dinhata Municipality), Manindra Ghosh, Jagadish Barman, Chitta Talukdar and Kanu Dey were among freedom fighters who traveled from Dinhata in 1955 to take part in the liberation movement in Goa – the place which Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee is eyeing in a bid to wrest it from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) when assembly elections take place around February 2022.

At the moment though, Dinhata is not in the news because of its intriguing history, or the noted people with links to this place, but because of the bypoll to be held here on October 30. Interesting, two days before the election, Mamata Banerjee will be going to Goa, probably to make the people there aware of Bengal’s contribution to their state’s liberation movement and the strong Dinhata connection.

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Dinhata is a prestige battle for the BJP because it falls in North Bengal – a stronghold area of ​​the saffron party, where it received massive support in the 2019 parliamentary polls, helping it bag 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state. The assembly seat here was won this year by union minister of state (MoS) for home affairs Nisith Pramanik.

Pramanik, who defeated TMC’s Udayan Guha by 57 votes, is said to be very emotionally attached to Dinhata. He was one of the BJP MPs who had won the April-May assembly polls but later resigned because they wanted to continue at the Centre. He didn’t even take oath as an MLA after the election results were declared on May 2, and this necessitated the bypoll in Dinhata. Later, he issued a statement, saying that the central BJP leadership had asked him to continue as an MP.

This time, the TMC has once again fielded Udayan Guha from Dinhata. The BJP leadership has put its faith in Ashok Mondal to take on the ruling party candidate.

In 2011, Ashok Mondal was from Trinamool by Mamata Banerjee after he joined hands with an independent candidate Md Fazle Haque. There are those line for he worked against the party line for denying a ticket to contest the assembly polls in 2011 on behalf of the TMC.

Ever since Mamata Banerjee stormed back to power on May 2, defectors have been making a beeline to return to the Trinamool Congress from the BJP.

Mukul Roy was the first to return in June, followed by Bishnupur MLA Tanmoy Ghosh on August 30 and Bagda legislator Biswajit Das on August 31. Soumen Roy, the BJP legislator from Kaliaganj, also joined the TMC. The last one who switched over was Raiganj BJP MLA Krishna Kalyani. He resigned after he was sent a show-cause notice by the BJP for speaking against the party’s Raiganj MP Debashree Chaudhuri.

The BJP’s strength in the assembly has now reduced to 70 seats because, apart from the defectors, Jagannath Sarkar, who won the Santipur assembly seat in Nadia district, and Nisith Pramanik, who won the Dinhata constituency, preferred to keep their Lok Sabha seats.

A senior BJP leader said, “The party has made Nisith Pramanik the MoS for home affairs. This is a very prestigious post and we will never like to see our candidate losing from Dinhata, which was won by Pramanik. If we lose this seat, then this will not only be a setback for the BJP but it will also decide the political future of Pramanik in Bengal’s politics before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.”

Speaking to News18.com, Udayan Guha expressed confidence about a victory. “The last time I lost this seat by a small margin but this time there won’t be any lapses. I don’t want to comment on whether this is a prestige battle for the BJP or not, but all I can say is that this time I am winning the Dinhata seat by a comfortable margin,” the TMC candidate said.

When contacted, Cooch Behar BJP district president Malati Rava hit out at Trinamool. “The ruling party is terrorizing the people, telling them not to vote for the BJP. We have informed the Election Commission (EC) and requested for free and fair polls. The last time we defeated TMC candidate Udayan Guha and this time too, if free and fair polls happen, we will defeat him again,” said the BJP leader.

The North Bengal region became a headache for chief minister Mamata Banerjee following the TMC’s poor performance here in the 2019 Lok Sabha Polls.

Of the eight Lok Sabha seats here – Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Raiganj, Balurghat, North Malda and South Malda – Trinamool failed to win even one. Seven of the eight seats went to the BJP, while Malda South was secured by the Congress.

However, in the assembly polls this year, the TMC managed to regain most of the seats in North Bengal and Nadia.

BJP’s Jagannath Sarkar won the Santipur assembly seat after defeating TMC’s Ajay De by more than 15000 votes), and later relinquished it to continue as an MP. The bypoll on this seat in Nadia district is again a prestige battle for the party because it is the constituency where the Matua community is a decisive factor. In 2019, Matuas in Santipur, which falls under the Ranaghat Lok Sabha constituency from where Sarkar is the MP, helped the saffron party win here. This is predominantly a BJP stronghold and so the party is leaving no stone unturned to win the seat and has fielded Niranjan Biswas against the TMC’s Brajakishore Goswami, a Vaishnav community leader.

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Nadia BJP president Ashok Chakraborty strongly believes that the BJP is going to win this seat because, he says, the majority of voters are upset with the ruling party for its negligence towards the lower sections of society. “I am confident that our candidate will win by a decent margin,” he said.

Apart from Dinhata and Santipur, bypolls for Khardaha and Gosaba will also be held on October 30 following the death of TMC MLAs Kajal Sinha and Jayanta Naskar. The counting of votes for all four seats will take place on November 2.

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