Siliguri, a high-profile seat in Darjeeling district of West Bengal, will go to polls on April 17 (Sunday) when the third (technically second) phase of the state's ongoing Assembly election will be held.
This year, Trinamool Congress's (TMC) Baichung Bhutia will try to defend the seat against the CPI(M)'s Ashok Bhattacharya, who was once the dominant candidate here. The BJP has fielded Geeta Chattapadhyay from the seat. The Siliguri segment falls under the Darjeeling Lok Sabha constituency which is under the BJP's control since 2009.
Date of polling:
Siliguri, which is constituency No. 26, will go to polls on April 17. The result will be declared on May 19.
2011 election result:
TMC won Siliguri for the first time ever when its candidate Rudranath Bhattacharya beat four-time MLA from this seat Ashok Bhattacharya by 5,006 votes. The TMC contested this election in alliance with the Congress. The BJP finished a distant third with 6,069 votes.
Baichung Bhutia (Trinamool Congress)
The former captain of India's national football team Baichung Bhutia will be contesting his second election on the TMC's ticket. He had contested the 2014 Lok Sabha election for the same party from Darjeeling but lost to the BJP's SS Ahluwalia by nearly 2 lakh votes.
Bhutia, who has 42 international goals to his credit and a recipeint of a number of awards, the most by any Indian footballer, is up against a far stronger opponent this time. His selection as the candidate from Siliguri shows that TMC chief Mamata Banerjee has banked on the celebrity factor to overcome the fact that her party doesn't have a strong organisation in the northern parts of the state, even more without the Congress's support.
The recent erosion in the TMC's ranks in Siliguri will also make it tougher for Bhutia to earn his party the second successive win from this seat. Moreover, Bhutia's surpise nomination in place of Rudranath Bhattacharya, the scam-tainted sitting MLA, has also not impressed many local wokers. This, along with the fact that Bhutia is not a man of the grassroots will also limit his chances against Ashok Bhattacharya, a man who was dominated these parts for a long, long time.
Ashok Bhattacharya (CPI-M)
Bhattacharya, who won every election from Siliguri since 1991 before losing the 2011 contest, is the current mayor of Siliguri. The 66-year-old leader played a big role in shaping the Siliguri Model (Left-Congress alliance to defeat the TMC) and it laid the foundation for the current Left-Congress electoral tie-up in th Bengal which has given the TMC sleepless nights.
Bhattacharya led the Left beat the TMC in two big local elections in Siliguri to prove that he was far from exhausted as a force in politics. Bhattacharya is known as the 'CM of North Bengal' for his clout in those areas and will his party will be confident that he will be back to the Assembly after a gap of five years.
Ashok Bhattacharya will prove it is a no match. Mamata Banerjee's decision to field Baichung Bhutia could also have a negative impact on the Gorkhaland issue, which has not been addressed by the TMC government in the best possible manner in the last five years. In 2011, Ashok Bhattacharya lost to the Mamata Banerjee wave but this time, that wave is not half as strong, thanks to several issues that have added to the anti-incumbency mood.
Ashok Bhattacharya 90%, Baichung Bhutia 10%