4 Bypolls In Bengal On 19 May: Here’s Who Will Be Battling It Out
The four Assembly seats in contention are Bhatpara, Darjeeling, Habibpur and Islampur.
Along with the nine Lok Sabha constituencies in West Bengal that will vote in the final phase of the Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on 19 May, bypolls to four Assembly constituencies will also be held, in Bhatpara, Darjeeling, Islampur and Habibpur. The polls were necessitated as some sitting MLAs had to resign in order to contest the Lok Sabha polls. Here are the key highlights of these four seats.
In Bhatpara, the Return Of Madan Da
When it comes to being the most colourful personality in Bengal politics, the Trinamool Congress’ Madan Mitra has no competition.
A former Transport Minister in the Mamata Banerjee government, Mitra is contesting from Bhatpara.
These bypolls are being seen as his rehabilitation into the Trinamool after he’d lost prominence in the party following his arrest in the Saradha chit fund scam in 2015.
He was released on bail in September 2016 after serving a 21-month jail term. In the 2016 West Bengal Assembly polls, Mitra had contested (from jail) from his previously-held seat Kamarhati, but lost by a considerable margin to the CPI(M)’s Manas Mukherjee.
The Bhatapara seat was previously held by Arjun Singh of the Trinamool Congress who recently defected to the BJP and is now the saffron party’s Lok Sabha candidate from the Barrackpore constituency.
Mitra’s adversary in the bypoll is Arjun Singh’s son, Pawan Kumar Singh. While the seat is being touted as a difficult one, Mitra has had by far the most publicised and social media-savvy campaign amongst all the candidates contesting the bypolls AND the Lok Sabha polls in Bengal this year, with his regular Facebook lives being the subject of many discussions (and memes) online. He’s also roped in actors like Ameesha Patel and Shakti Kapoor to campaign for him.
Trinamool Backs Morcha’s Binay Tamang In Darjeeling
The Darjeeling seat was vacated as the sitting MLA Amar Singh Rai, resigned to contest the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat on a Trinamool ticket. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha fielded Binay Tamang as its candidate from the seat. Tamang is the leader of one of the GJM factions after the party saw a split last year – its supremo, Bimal Gurung, went into hiding in June 2018 after Darjeeling saw massive rioting over the Gorkhaland issue. There is presently an arrest warrant against Gurung for his alleged involvement in the violence.
Chief Minister and Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee has extended her support to Tamang, who has represented the GJM in multiple rounds of talks with the Bengal government on hill issues.
Tamang is up against GNLF leader Neeraj Zimba who is backed by the Bimal Gurung faction of the GJM and is contesting on a BJP ticket.
The GJM has said that it is “confident” that Banerjee will make Tamang a minister for Hill Affairs if elected.
BJP Looking To Win Habibpur & Islampur
In the Habibpur constituency, which is part of the Malda North Lok Sabha constituency, the sitting MLA, Khagen Murmu of the CPI(M), has now defected to the BJP and is contesting for Lok Sabha on a saffron ticket from the same constituency.
Traditionally a Congress bastion, which then fell to the Left, Habibpur has seen massive inroads by the BJP, especially in the Panchayat polls of 2018.
In the bypolls this year, the Trinamool has fielded Amak Kishku against the BJP’s Jual Murmu.
The Islampur seat, on the other hand, was previously held by Kanailal Agarwal who won on a Congress ticket. He has now defected to the Trinamool and was the party’s candidate from the Raiganj Lok Sabha seat this year. In this seat, the BJP is looking to use the Daribhit school violence against the ruling dispensation where two young people were killed over recruitment of teachers last September. The party has fielded Dr Samayroop Mandal against the Trinamool’s Abdul Karim Chowdhury.
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