With Mamata Banerjee’s decision to contest the upcoming West Bengal Assembly Elections 2021 from Nandigram in East Midnapore – all eyes would be on the Bhabanipur constituency, where she has been the sitting MLA since 2011.
Politically, both the Nandigram and Bhabanipur seats are a prestige battle for Banerjee because ‘any unfavourable’ results will have a long impact on her political career.
While releasing the list of candidates for all the 294 Assembly seats, Banerjee said, “I believe in keeping words. Today I would like to officially announce that I am contesting from Nandigram. In realty, it’s me who is contesting from all the seats and it does not matter who the candidates are. This time I am not contesting from Bhawanipur and instead we have decided to field Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay from Bhawanipur seat.”
Banerjee personally selected Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay – known to be a strong TMC leader – because she felt that he is capable of retaining the seat despite her decision to contest from Nandigram and not from her own constituency.
Speaking to News18, Chattopadhyay said, “Didi gave her Bhawanipore seat to me and I am feeling proud today. She must have thought that I am the candidate who can retain the seat on behalf of the TMC. It’s a great challenge for me and I will try my best to contest from here. It is a great honour to me.”
Chattopadhyay was first elected as TMC MLA in 1998. He was the founder-president of the Indian National Trinamool Trade Union Congress (INTTUC) – the labour wing of the TMC.
He was the chief whip in the West Bengal Assembly from 2011 to 2016. On May 27, 2016 he took charge as the State Minister of Power and Non Conventional Energy in Mamata’s cabinet.
Unknown to many, Chattopadhyay was a boxer during his college days and he never missed boxing championships on television including the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association. He doesn’t miss them even today despite his busy schedule.
A layer by profession, he was also the president of Kolkata Auto Rickshaw Operators’ Union.
In 1991 and 1996, he won the Baruipur seat as a Congress candidate. In 2001 and 2006, he won the Rashbehari seat in South Kolkata on TMC ticket. He was re-elected from the same seat in 2016.
Presently, he is the minister-in-charge of the department of power and non-conventional energy sources.
Bhabanipur is located in South Kolkata and was once a Congress bastion Banerjee was still with the grand old party. Later it became Banerjee’s citadel because her Kalighat home is located in this constituency.
In 2011, Banerjee won a bypoll from the Bhabanipur constituency after Subrata Bakshi vacated the seat for her. Then, she won by a margin of 54,213 votes. However, the political situation changed during 2014 Lok Sabha polls when BJP had a lead of more than 180 votes in the assembly segment.
In the 2015 Kolkata Municipal Corporation polls, TMC lost two wards including 70 and 77 (Out of total eight wards in Bhabanipur).The ward number 70 was won by the BJP, while ward 77 was secured by the Forward Bloc.
The Bhabanipur assembly segment is dominated by Bengali voters, but significant number of Sikhs and Gujarati voters too live here. Therefore, it will be another mother of all battles for BJP and TMC apart from Nandigram.