Sabang by-poll: Prestige battle for Bengal's political stalwarts, parties

Sabang by-poll: Prestige battle for Bengal's political stalwarts, parties

Trinamool Congress leader Mukul Roy.(File Photo: IANS)
Trinamool Congress leader Mukul Roy.(File Photo: IANS)

Kolkata, Dec 20 (IANS) The by-polls to West Bengal's Sabang assembly seat, slated for Thursday, may not usher in any change of government, but still involve lot of prestige - both for some of the state's political stalwarts as also for the political outfits in the electoral fray.At a personal level, senior politicians like Mukul Roy and Manas Bhunia are desperate to prove their worth to the bosses of the new parties they have crossed over to.On the other hand, the state's principal political parties - Trinamool Congress, the Congress, the BJP and the Left Front - all need to prove a point or two at Sabang, for long a Congress stronghold.The by-election, necessitated by Bhunia's decision to quit Congress and join Trinamool earlier this year, has triggered a five-horse race.The Trinamool has nominated Bhunia's wife Gita Rani Bhunia, the Congress has opted for a local leader Chiranjib Bhowmick, Rita Mondal is the Left Front nominated Communist Party of India-Marxist aspirant, while the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate is Antara Bhattacharyya.There is also a contestant from the Socialist Unity Centre of India-C.Manas Bhunia, a seven-time legislator from the constituency in West Midnapore district, had won the seat as a Left-backed Congress candidate in last year's assembly polls with a massive 50,000 plus margin over Trinamool's Nirmal Ghosh.Bhunia, who has been criss-crossing the constituency from daybreak till late into the night, is desperate to ensure a big win for his new party to prove that the Congress' support base has shifted with him to the Trinamool.The Trinamool, eager to wrest one of the last Congress bastions in the state, has sent a number of party heavyweights including its supremo Mamata Banerjee's nephew and MP Abhishek Banerjee for campaigning.On the other hand, Congress state President Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has seemingly taken the contest as a challenge to retain the seat, even though he admits that his party could have put up a more formidable fight if the CPI-M had backed the Congress instead of fielding its own candidate.With its popularity on a continuous downslide over the past few years, the by-polls are an opportunity for the CPI-M, which is contesting the seat for the first time. During the 34 years of LF rule, the combine had fielded Biplobi Bangla Congress candidates.Faced with a steady erosion of its support base across the state, with the BJP aggressively canvassing to emerge as the main challenger to the ruling Trinamool, the CPI-M has opted to field its own candidate in an effort to stop any more blood letting."We are aiming for a win. In the worst case, we will finish at number two," said a CPI-M leader said on condition of anonymity.For the BJP, which is positioning itself as the alternative to the Trinamool, Sabang is a litmus test to show its continuous ascendancy in state politics. The party has conducted a high-voltage campaign, with all its leading lights in the state, coming to Sabang to woo the voters.Roy, who joined the BJP recently, has campaigned vigorously, and is said to be the mastermind in planning the party's strategy for the by-poll. This being the first election in the state after the former confidant of Mamata Banerjee pitched his lot with the BJP, Roy is going all out to ensure a descent show for the saffron outfit.An electorate of 2,45,259 is eligible to exercise its democratic choice.To ensure fool-proof security, the Election Commission has deployed eight companies of central forces.Counting of votes will be held on December 24.--IANSssp/vd

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