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Bengal Bypolls: In a Bid to Quell Saffron Wave, TMC Focuses on Constituency-Wise Manifestos

File photo of Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee.

File photo of Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee.

A TMC leader said the decision to release constituency-wise manifestos was taken as the party leadership wanted the focus to be on the development of the place and not temple and NRC issues.

Kolkata: Taking a cue from political parties focusing on constituency-wise manifestos in Haryana and Maharashtra, the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal has decided to release similar policy documents for the seats that will see bypolls on November 25.

By-elections in the state will be held in North Dinajpur’s Kaliaganj, West Midnapore’s Kharagpur Sadar and Karimpur in Nadia district.

While the Kaliaganj seat fell vacant following the death of sitting Congress MLA Parmatha Nath Ray on May 31, 2019, the sitting MLAs of Kharagpur Sadar and Karimpur seats — BJP’s Dilip Ghosh and TMC’s Mahua Moitra — were elected to the Lok Sabha from Midnapore and Krishnnanagar seats, respectively.

TMC sources said the decision to release constituency-wise manifestos was taken to quell the saffron wave over the issues of religion and National Register of Citizens (NRC) coupled with local developmental concerns that matter the most in that particular place.

A senior West Midnapore-based Trinamool leader, who wished not to be named, said, “The BJP leaders are struggling to come out of the NRC issue and their Hindutva agenda in Bengal. Their party president, Amit Shah, had announced that polls in Bengal will be fought on the issue of NRC. But the ground reality is that his party leaders are finding it difficult to win the confidence of people.”

He said, “Their strategy in Bengal is limited and predictable and it’s exposed now. For example, today they are juggling with NRC and 'cut money' (bribe). What else? What is new in their strategy which the people will like it? When they fall short of a strategy, they will hit the streets over trivial issues.

“Not only that, to get some attention, they will send leaders like Babul Supriyo to create some deliberate crisis. Why is it that Babul Supriyo always faces protest wherever he goes in Bengal. Don’t you think it’s organised and pre-planned? Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, you may have noticed that wherever he was going, he was facing protests. No other leader was having any problem except him. A similar situation arose at Jadavpur University. The same time happened in South 24-Parganas where he went to assess the damage due to cyclone. People in Bengal are not fools. They can see what is happening.”

“This time, we have decided to release constituency-wise manifestos because we want to focus on the development of the place and not on temple and NRC issues. If you talk to people at the ground level, you will realise they are least bothered about religion or any related issue. I am sure our new endeavour will help us reap rich benefits in the three seats,” he added. The ruling camp has already released its manifesto for Kharagour Sadar and is now working on the documents for the other two seats.

Sources said the idea of having a local manifesto was floated by poll strategist Prashant Kishor and it was prepared based on feedback the party received through the ‘Didi Ke Bolo’ campaign, which was launched by party supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on July 29.

Kishor convinced Banerjee for the specific-manifesto programme to clear the party’s vision and roadmap for development in the areas that are seeing elections. He said that as each area has its own issues, the specific manifestos would help them connect with locals in a better way.

Joyprakash Majumdar, vice-president of the BJP’s West Bengal unit, had earlier claimed that ‘Didi ke Bolo’ campaign was a failure and wouldn’t help the ruling camp in the upcoming elections.

“Frankly, people are not talking about it anymore. It’s a dead project. They have removed nearly 90% ‘Didi ke Bolo’ hoardings from Bengal. This platform, created by Prashant Kishor, will not contribute in any way because of its faulty planning. You will see the results in this bypoll as we are going to win all the three seats.”

Despite losing to the Trinamool Congress in the 2014 parliamentary elections, the saffron brigade has managed to increase its vote percentage to 20 % in Jangalmahal districts. In the 2018 panchayat elections, the BJP raised its vote share by 27% in the region and the ruling camp suffered a massive setback in Jhargram, Purulia and Bankura.

Hence, both the camps are looking forward to the results of the bypolls as an indicator of the general mood of the people in the state ahead of the 2021 Assembly elections.

The last date of filing nominations for the elections was November 6, while counting will be held on November 28. The Election Commission has decided to use EVMs and VVPATs in all the polling stations.