The Bhabanipur constituency in West Bengal will be perhaps the biggest draw of the upcoming Assembly elections in the eastern state starting April 4.
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Here, the Congress has pitted former Union minister Deepa Dasmunsi against the state's chief minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee. The BJP, which did well in this segment during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, has fielded Chandra Kumar Bose, the grand nephew of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. The Bhabanipur contest is being termed as a 'Didi vs Boudi' one.
Date of polling:
Bhabanipur, which is constituency No. 159, will go to polls on April 30, when the sixth phase (technically fifth) of the Assembly elections will be held. The result will be declared on May 19.
2011 election result:
TMC's Subrata Bakshi won from Bhabanipur in the 2011 Assembly polls. He beat the CPI(M)'s Narayan Prasad Jain by 49,936 votes. The BJP's Ram Chandra Jaiswal finished third with just over 5,000 votes.
2011 by-election result:
A by-election was held in that seat later in 2011 when Mamata Banerjee contested from there to become a member of the Assembly. She beat CPI(M)'s Nandini Mukherjee by 54,213 votes. Though the total number of votes polled by the TMC had decreased in the bypoll, but its share increased from 65 to 77 per cent.
Mamata Banerjee (Trinamool Congress)
Mamata Banerjee, the eighth chief minister of Bengal, is the state's tallest leader. The 61-year-old woman, known for her grassroots appeal, has always been a player at the national level and became an MLA for the first time in 2011. The TMC supremo made history five years ago after leading her party to end the 34-year rule of the Left Front in the state.
However, her first term in government saw a number of unhappy incidents in the state (the Narada sting operation being the latest) and fighting anti-incumbency for the first time and the Opposition entering a seat understanding in this election, she might feel a bit apprehensive. But the fact that Bengal has no other leader of equal stature like Banerjee will assure her party.
Deepa Dasmunsi (Congress)
Deepa Dasmunsi, the wife of ailing Congress leader Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, has been a Union minister in the 15th Lok Sabha but lost closely to CPI(M)'s Mohammad Salim from Raiganj in North Dinajpur, the Dasmunsis' bastion in Bengal, in the 2014 general elections. She was also a member of the state Assembly between 2006 and 2009 when she became the MP. She served as the Union Minister of State for Urban Development between 2012 and 2014.
Popularly known as 'Boudi' (sister-in-law), Deepa Dasmunsi hails from South Kolkata where the Bhabanipur constituency is situated and is known to be a strong critic of Mamata Banerjee. Her nomination for the Bhabanipur seat came at the last moment from the party high command and she replaced Professor Omprakash Mishra, who already started his campaign for the election.
It will be interesting to see to what extent does Deepa, a post-graduate in dramatics, throws a tough challenge to Didi in this elite constituency.
Chandra Kumar Bose (BJP)
A non-political entity, Chandra Kumar Bose has been fielded by the BJP just to cash in on the Netaji sentiment in the Bhabanipur area, where the Bose family's ancestral home is located. The NDA government at the Centre is in a race with the state's TMC government over declassifying files on the legendary freedom fighter who had mysteriously disappeared in 1945 and the BJP, which is otherwise a fringe player in Bengal, has tried to ensure that it extracts the maximum by fielding Netaji's grand nephew against Mamata Banerjee heself.
Fifty-five-year-old Bose, a graduate in economics from London, joined the BJP earlier this year. Through this, the saffron party also tried to convey a message that it is not having any backdoor understanding with the TMC as the Opposition often claims. And moreover, the fact that Bhabanipur area (under Kolkata South Lok Sabha seat) has a sizeable concentration Gujaratis and the BJP finished second in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections with over 25 per cent vote share has also encouraged the party to go all out in this seat.
Mamata looks favourites to win the contest, thanks to her party's strong organisation in the South Kolkata area. Deepa Dasmunsi is likely to put up a spirited fight whiel Bose is expected to make some good gain, compared to the BJP's show in othe constituencies of the state. But beating Mamata looks too big a goal for either of them to acheive.
Mamata Banerjee 80% Others 20%