The three men at the local tea shop on Harish Chatterjee Lane walked away quickly refusing to even listen to the questions. They didn’t want to answer anything, especially when asked about how they feel that Mamata Bannerjee has opted out of Bhowanipur to contest from Nandigram. Harish Chatterjee Lane also happens to be the street on which Mamata’s house is situated.
Bhowanipur in Kolkata is known for the Netaji Bhawan. It also boasts of famous residents like Netaji himself, Stayajit Ray, actor Uttam Kumar, among others. In recent times, it drew its prominence by virtue of it being the constituency of Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee. In fact, her modest home here, which is now heavily guarded, is as much a tourist spot as the nearby Kali Ghat.
While many residents were careful in speaking up about her decision, some aren’t too disappointed. At the Durga Sweet Shop, as Pantu deals with impatient buyers, asks, “How does it matter? Her home is here and she will always be a resident of this place if she becomes the CM again”.
Agrees Ranjit Mukherjee, a 73-year-old TMC supporter, “Those who say she left this seat because she feared she would lose, are wrong. No matter where she contests from across the country, Didi will win.”
While this can be taken with a pinch of salt coming from a Mamata supporter, some see through the politics behind her move. Jagannath Mullick says, “Its politics. She wants to prove a point to the BJP and that’s why she decided to contest from there. She wants to take on Suvendu Adhikari.”
Bhowanipur has received special attention from Mamata Bannerjee. In the last ten years, she has been MLA from the place, massive development work has been carried out. Roads have been illuminated, water logging has also been dealt with to a great extent.
But what is worrying for the TMC is the fact that the BJP has begun to make inroads into this area. In 2016, she won by a modest margin of over 25,000 votes. In the Lok Sabha polls, the margin between the BJP and TMC has narrowed further in this area. So it’s important for both the parties to win from here. For the TMC, it is to prove the BJP wrong that Mamata left it because she felt she would lose from here. For the BJP, a win is important to show that they were right in their assessment.
Says Anchol Das, “I think she should have stuck to this place. Why did she go? If she had won twice, she would have won third time too. Now we are beginning to wonder whether the BJP is right?”
In the last few days, the number of TMC flags has increased in Bhowanipur. She may not be contesting from there, but posters carrying her smiling face dominate everywhere. And TMC candidate Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay is rarely seen. But even in her absence, Mamata Bannerjee will continue to be the face of Bhowanipur.