Kolkata: A seesaw battle is on the cards in the high-voltage Dum Dum constituency, a CPM stronghold on the fringe of the metropolis from where housing minister and CPM's star campaigner Gautam Deb is trying his luck.
Deb is pitted against noted theater personality Bratya Basu, a political greenhorn, contesting on a Trinamool Congress (TMC) ticket. A star campaigner for the CPM in this Assembly election, Deb has a difficult task ahead defending the seat won by party comrade Rekha Goswami in the 2006 election in the midst of calls for 'paribartan' (change).
Bratya Basu, who hitched his lot with TMC chief Mamata Banerjee ever since Singur and Nandigram turmoil rocked the state, is a vocal critic of the Marxists and a key campaigner for change. He was greeted by hundreds of party men during a meeting last month at the town hall at Dum dum after he jumped into the poll fray.
Deb had earlier contested elections from Hasnabad, a border town, and faced questions from his detractors about his changing the seat.
TMC even put up wall writings asking, "Dum Dum-e keno harte eli" (why have you come to Dum Dum to loose) election.
Unfazed by such criticism, Deb, a CPM central committee member, said, "After delimitation, Hasnabad seat has no existence. So the party has fielded me from Dum Dum. My house is here. Due to its locational advantage, it will give me opportunity to campaign in other areas for the party candidates."
Inhabited predominantly by the middle class, Dum Dum also has colonies where people uprooted after Partition settled there as both the contenders left no stone unturned to win away the voters through intense campaign in the lanes and by-lanes.
The constituency after delimitation has undergone geographical change and another new constituency Dum Dum Uttar has come into existence. It now comprises areas of Dum Dum and 17 wards of South Dum Dum municipalities, both of which were under the control of TMC.
Asked about his prospect, Deb, who took TMC supreme Mamata Banerjee head on and dared her to contest against him said, "I don't say it is an easy task. Two civic bodies were under their control. But our comrades were going to the people. I am confident of a win. It is obvious in the body language of the voters."
A cursory glance at the past records showed that since 1967, this constituency was mostly in the hands of the Marxists.
TMC had wrested the seat in 2001 by a slender margin of 224 votes, but the CPM had re-captured it in 2006 Assembly election when state minister Rekha Goswami emerged victorious trouncing TMC candidate by a convincing margin of 30,238 votes.
Unlike this time, in the 2006 poll Congress had contested separately and its nominee had secured 11,541 votes. But in the 2009 Lok Sabha election, TMC candidate and Union minister Saugata Roy was slightly ahead of his CPM rival Amitava Nandy by 769 votes in Dum Dum Assembly segment.
Bratya Basu, who undertook several padayatras in the constituency, is equally sure of his victory.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee are scheduled to hold a joint campaign in this constituency on May 23.
Political observers say that with TMC forming alliance with Congress, the CPM candidate would face a tough fight on April 27. But Deb, who openly admitted mistakes committed by the party and called for correction, believed that the constituency would not disappoint him.