DIAMOND HARBOUR: The Trinamool Congress is fighting hard to retain the seven assembly segments in Diamond Harbour constituency, represented by TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee in the Lok Sabha.
Apart from a surge in BJP’s support base, allegations of corruption in Amphan relief seemed to be a cause of concern for the TMC, despite the fact that Banerjee, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew had won the 2019 Lok Sabha elections by more than 3.2 lakh votes.
The Left front led-Sanjukta Morcha’s emergence as a third force has also queered the pitch as young CPM and ISF workers have been fanning out seeking support for their candidates.
Out of the seven assembly segments in Diamond Harbour constituency, Banerjee had a huge lead in Muslim-dominated Metiaburuz and Budge Budge assembly segments, while he was ahead by a handsome margin in Maheshtala, Bishnupur, Satgachia, Falta and Diamond Harbour, all of which also have a sizeable minority population.
While the CPI(M) is contesting Diamond Harbour, Satgachia, Bishnupur and Maheshtala, the Congress is fighting from Budge Budge and Falta, while the ISF has put up its candidate in Metiabruz, which is situated in the south-western outskirts of Kolkata.
Allegations of irregularities in distribution of relief to those affected by the Amphan cyclone, in May last year have rocked the state government with the Calcutta High Court ordering an audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).
The BJP top leadership have raked up the allegations in almost every election meeting, while the chief minister Banerjee has asserted that all affected have been given relief with the exception of a few possible glitches.
There are 17,18,454 voters in the seven segments, with 8,32,059 being female and 8,86,339 male, while there are 56 from the third gender.
With the Election Commission holding elections in the 31 assembly segments in South 24 Parganas district in an unprecedented three phases, four seats in Diamond Harbour – Falta, Satgachia, Bishnupur and Diamond Harbour will go for polls on April 6 while the voters in Maheshtala, Budge Budge and Metiaburuz will exercise their franchise on April 10.
“We have got everything, our MLA Dilip Mondal has done a lot of work and we have electricity and good roads, there is peace in the area,” Basudeb Mondal, a local TMC leader at Companypukur village in Bishnupur assembly segment claimed.
While the infrastructure does indeed look good with smooth roads replacing the older bumpy, pot-holed roads in the area, an undercurrent of discontent is discernible among a section of voters, who complain of partisan relief distribution and lack of jobs even as they also speak of infrastructural development.
However, many others said that relief and dole had flowed without hitches.
Habibullah Sheikh, a vegetable seller, said his family received funds from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s ‘Rupashri’ scheme for his sister’s marriage.
TMC flags flutter in most places, but nearby flags with BJP’s lotus symbol, vie to catch the passerby’s eye.
The CPM’s hammer and sickle however are few and far between.
Said 25-year-old Palash Mondal, 25, an unemployed youth, “the tradition of having one party rule Bengal for decades should not continue as that breeds corruption and hampers development.”
“Those who want jobs want a change,” added Mondal, a graduate.
Discontent against local party leaders seems to have forced TMC to replace four-time MLA Sonali Guha as its candidate in Satgachia, prompting her to join the BJP.
While this has led to confusion among voters it has also meant the party is a divided house.
Auto-rickshaw driver Tulsi Pal claimed “many people could not vote in the panchayat elections, hope this time it will be different.”
Falta, which has a sizable number of factories in the Special Economic Zone there, appeared peaceful with not much political sloganeering on.
TMC worker Ranjit Das claimed the ruling party is sure of a win there.
The TMC has fielded rookie Shankar Kumar Naskar from Falta following the death of three-time party MLA Tamonash Ghosh, who did not hide his uncomfortable relationship with the local MP, during the pandemic.
At Chandnagar village, the air is full of optimism among TMC workers as many feel candidate Pannalal Halder will win handsomely from Diamond Harbour seat, while admitting that the BJP has emerged as the main opponent this time around.
TMC’s sitting MLA Dipak Halder, who left the party to join the BJP and was nominated by it as its candidate from the seat, was at the receiving end of an attack allegedly by his former colleagues while campaigning at Haridevpur village on Friday.
The ruling party has denied any role in the assault.
Busy putting up posters of Mamata Banerjee on roadside walls with “Bangla nijer meyeke chai (Bengal wants its own daughter) written on the posters, Mir Alam Laskar of the TMC charged BJP and its leadership with dividing the riverine community on religious lines.
“It is because of the saffron party that such things are happening.”