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West Bengal elections 2021: Battleground constituencies in first phase of polling

ANI | Updated: Mar 25, 2021 19:26 IST

Kolkata (West Bengal [India], March 25 (ANI): With the first phase of polling in the high-stakes West Bengal Legislative Assembly elections beginning on March 27, the state is set to witness an intense triangular contest between Trinamool Congress (TMC), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress-Left alliance in the 30 seats that will be covered in this phase.

The 30 Assembly constituencies in the first phase, covers all constituencies from the districts of Purulia and Jhargram and some constituencies from Bankura, Purba Medinipur and Paschim Medinipur.

The electoral battle will be initiated from the Jangalmahal region, which has a significant tribal population and is infamous for violence. The area constitutes 60 Assembly constituencies and was dominated by the Left parties until the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

In 2011, this trend was broken by the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) when the party won 41 out of 60 Assembly seats in this region along with alliance partner Congress. This was undone by the BJP in the 2019 General Elections.

During the 2016 Assembly elections, the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) won 27 out of these 30 seats, whereas Congress managed to garner two seats and Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) won a single seat.

Once considered as the bastion of the Left Front, people in the tribal-dominated districts of Purulia, Bankura, Jhargram, Purba Medinipur and Paschim Medinipur voted for the TMC in the last two Assembly elections. However, the BJP clinched victories in all these four areas in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Purulia, which contains a large Marwari community, was considered as a stronghold for the Left parties, although currently, they have become largely redundant since their defeat in the 2011 elections. According to reports, Purulia’s history of water scarcity has been repeatedly used by the BJP to attack the ruling state government.

In the education field, the total literates in Purulia city are 89,000. The total number of slums in Purulia city is 9,205 in which population of 50,071 resides, which is 41.36 per cent of the total population of Purulia city.

In the 2016 legislative polls, Congress had clinched victory in the Purulia constituency, with Sudip Kumar Mukherjee defeated TMC’s Jyotiprasad Singh Deo. However, Mukherjee later joined BJP and will face against TMC’s Sujoy Bandhopadhyay and Congress’ Partha Pratim Banerjee in the same constituency.

Currently, the sitting MP from Purulia is Jyotirmay Singh Mahato from BJP.

On the other hand, the Jhargram constituency was won by TMC’s Sukumar Hansda in the 2016 polls, defeating Chunibala Hansda from Jharkhand Party (Naren). In the upcoming election, TMC’s Birbaha Hansda will face off against BJP’s Sukhmoy Satpati. The sitting MPP in Jhargram is Dr Subhas Sarkar from BJP.

Jhargram carries a great deal of significance for the parties. Once known as a den for Maoists, the district is dominated by SC/ST communities – Santhals and Kurmis. The Kurmis have electoral importance in about 30 out of the 42 constituencies in the region, so both parties are fighting hard to gain the support of the community.

Although BJP had secured a strong position in Purulia and Jhargram in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, many believe that the ruling TMC has somehow managed to garner back some support through new programmes such as ‘Duare Sarkar’.

Meanwhile, Bankura houses around 42 per cent of SC and ST voters, which are the main targets of the three parties. The rural population of Bankura stands at 92.67 per cent.

TMC has placed actress Sayantika Banerjee to face off against BJP's Niladri Sekhar Dana, while Congress' Radha Rani Benerjee will also contest from there. In 2016, the Bankura seat went to Congress candidate Shampa Daripa, who later joined Trinamool.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s former protégé-turned-rival, and arguably BJP’s most important candidate, Suvendu Adhikari, and his family, yield a significant amount of influence on their home turf in Purba Medinipur, which has a rural population of 88.37 per cent.

Furthermore, the Adhikari clan is also reported to have organisational control over 20 to 30 seats of adjoint districts like Paschim Medinipur, Jhargram and Bankura.

Paschim Medinipur, also known for Left Wing Extremism activities, was named one of the country’s most backward districts in 2006. It currently has an SC/ST population of about 34 per cent.

Some of the major issues in Paschim Medinipur, Jhargram, Bankura and Purulia are unemployment, lack of industrial growth and economic backwardness, with several small-scale workers and artisans facing hardships since the imposition of the Covid-19 lockdown. This has propelled both top parties to woo voters in their support.

The run-up to the Assembly elections has witnessed an intense tussle for power between the ruling Mamata Banerjee-led TMC and BJP. Several former ministers and members of Trinamool, including Suvendu Adhikari, Dinesh Trivedi and Rajib Banerjee, have defected to the BJP ahead of the elections.

Several ministers also switched parties after being denied tickets for the polls, most notably former TMC MLA Sonali Guha who joined BJP.

Elections to the 294-member state Assembly are to be held in eight phases starting from March 27 with the final round of voting taking place on April 29. The counting of votes will take place on May 2. (ANI)