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4-min read

In BJP and Left’s Tug of War for Raiganj Seat, Can Congress Emerge Winner with its Core Vote Bank?

In West Bengal’s Raiganj Lok Sabha constituency, the fight is between the Left and the BJP, and both will try hard to swing away votes from the Congress.

Prema Rajaram | CNN-News18

Updated:April 17, 2019, 3:54 PM IST
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In BJP and Left’s Tug of War for Raiganj Seat, Can Congress Emerge Winner with its Core Vote Bank?
File photo of people standing in queues to cast their votes at a polling booth. (Image: Ramana/News18)
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Raiganj: It is going to be a tough battle for CPIM’s incumbent leader Mohammad Salim, who is fighting hard to retain his seat in West Bengal’s Raiganj Lok Sabha constituency which goes to polls in the second phase of elections on Thursday.

Raiganj, in North Dinajpur district, has primarily been a Congress bastion, winning the seat 13 times since 1952. The seat shifted to the Left in 1991 for three terms, before being regained by the Congress again for three terms.

But in 2014, Mohammad Salim swept the carpet from under Congress leader Deepa Dasmunshi by winning the seat by a margin of 1,634 votes. The late Priyaranjan Dasmunshi had won from the Raiganj seat in 1999 and 2004 on a Congress ticket. After suffering a stroke and slipping into a vegetative state, his wife Deepa Dasmunshi had contested and won in 2009, with Congress retaining this seat for a third term. This time, Deepa is hoping to take back the reigns from Salim and rule the roost once again.

The seat-sharing pact between the Congress and the Left fell through due to Murshidabad and Raiganj being the bone of contention. Left wanted to contest from the two winning seats and Congress felt its chances were better in these constituencies this time.

Salim, however, is confident of winning this time as well. “I don’t forecast anything. However this time, old supporters who have deserted our party and many from the opposition camps are reaching out to me saying I will win. Even people in villages have been telling me I will win. I am witnessing this for the first time after 1977.”

“The Congress made several promises like setting up an AIIMS-like hospital in Raiganj but it never saw the light of day and instead shifted to Kalyani in Nadia district. Fighting the Congress is not tough. My only fight is against the BJP. Congress’s deposits will be forfeited,” says the incumbent MP while speaking of his feedback after campaigning aggressively in his constituency and also witnessing a significant BJP influence in the recent times.

Political analysts say the fight this time is between the Left and the BJP, and both will try hard to swing away votes from the Congress. The TMC, on the other hand, will try to maximise the opportunity of a fractured vote bank. “Raiganj is not a Left stronghold. It is a seat which was strongly loyal to the Congress, with Left winning in between. There is a core Congress vote bank which Deepa Dasmunshi is banking upon. However, that vote bank has been eroded as Kanaiya Lal Agarwal has moved from the Congress to contest from this seat on a TMC ticket,” says political analyst Shikha Mukherjee, who believes that Congress does have a strong chance of winning.

The BJP, on its part, is hoping to gain ground in the North Bengal constituencies with heavy campaigning, including campaigns by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The party is looking to win the voters’ confidence in areas bordering Bangladesh with its NRC and development pitch.

The TMC is fighting the battle in its own style -- trying to gain minority votes since many voters see party supremo Mamata Banerjee as a strong voice against Modi’s NRC echo. Banerjee has also been ambitiously reaching out to voters across the state in her bid to sweep all of 42 seats.

The TMC is currently in the eye of controversy over Bangladeshi actor Ferdous Ahmed’s visa being cancelled by the ministry of home affairs after he campaigned in Raiganj for TMC candidate Kanaihya Lal Agarwal.

The BJP had raised the issue with the Election Commission, over the Bangladeshi actor campaigning for party, which it said violates the model code of conduct. The party also saw this as TMC’s strategy to appease the minority vote bank in Raiganj. “The TMC might gain the minority votes as Mamata is seen as a strong voice against Modi and NRC. The minority community sees a crises with the NRC. The BJP has less chances of gaining ground here,” points out Uddayan Bandhopadhyay, political analyst.

Apart from this four pronged battle, the Congress and Left are at the centre of a bigger tussle. Of the seven assembly seats in the Raiganj Lok Sabha constituency, three were with the Congress, two with the TMC and two with the Left. After Congress’s Islampur MLA Kanhaiya Lal Agarwal switched over to TMC, Congress has one seat less and the TMC one more to gain.

The BJP, which was nowhere in the picture during the 2016 assembly elections, came in second after the TMC in the 2018 panchayat elections. The party is now hoping that the results of the rural polls will be a reason for them to gain mileage, coupled with a fractured vote bank in this four-cornered battle in Raigunj constituency.
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