Murdered MLA, a Widow & Matua Vote: How Mamata Trumped BJP, TMC Critics With a Single Ticket
While the death of 'Boromaa' has skewed political calculations in West Bengal, the internal factions within the Trinamool Congress has made Ranaghat seat even more crucial.
File Photo of Mamata Banerjee addresses her supporters during a rally in Kolkata.
Rupali, the widow of murdered Trinamool Congress MLA Satyajit Biswas, received little warning before the party arrived at her doorstep to ask for her bio data. But even though she has little experience in direct politics, her candidature from the Ranaghat seat is being viewed as key for the party ahead of the 2019 polls.
Satyajit was shot dead by unknown assailants during the inauguration of a Saraswati Puja. The MLA had told his wife, who he married in November 2016, that he would bring phucka (pani puri) for her and their son. As the shock at the murder dissipated, a slew of political allegations followed with fingers being pointed at the BJP and in particular the party’s state-in charge Mukul Roy.
The Trinamool Congress alleged that Satyajit was murdered because of his popularity amongst the Matua community — whose support has buoyed Mamata Banerjee's successive victory in the state and are actively being courted by the BJP. This, TMC leaders added, was a crucial factor in Banerjee’s decision to favour Rupali over Tapas Mandal, who successfully contested from the seat in 2014.
During the press conference, Mamata Banerjee underscored this and spoke of the Matua community and Satyajit’s links to the community while announcing her candidature. A senior TMC leader said, “She is a good replacement candidate. He (Tapas) wasn’t going to get the ticket. That much was clear. But after Satyajit’s murder, the situation on the ground had gotten worse.”
The Matuas trace their ancestry to East Bengal after partition and also after the formation of Bangladesh. The Prime Minister has repeatedly flagged the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, while after the death of ‘Boromaa’ Binapani Devi, the spiritual leader of the community – the Mamata Banerjee cabinet hurriedly formed a panel to look into issues of rehabilitating refugees from east Bengal.
The Ranaghat Lok Sabha seat consists of seven Assembly segments, of which three are reserved for the scheduled castes while the Matua community accounts for 40% of the total population here. Since the seat was carved out of the Nabadwip constituency, TMC has won the seat with a resounding majority and in 2014 the margin was over 2 lakh votes.
While the death of ‘Boromaa’ has skewed political calculations in the state, the seat was also rife with internal factions within the Trinamool Congress making it worse by the increasing strength of the BJP. “The BJP’s strategy here was to focus on the Matua community and attempt to wean them off from the TMC. They were making significant inroads and it is a tough seat,” admitted a TMC Rajya Sabha MP.
In an earlier interview with News18, Roy had downplayed the advantage that the BJP had gained after Satyajit’s death and said, “He might have been involved in the organisation. But it is not related.” The TMC disagrees.
The MP added, “He was a rising star and was one of the front-runners for the MP candidature. He spoke well. He had good relations with everyone in the party. He was one of those MLAs, who even after winning continued living in the MLA quarters and cooked food simply on a stove. The sympathy vote that Rupali will get might well prove key.”
Another MLA, who is a part of the Mamata Banerjee’s 2019 Lok Sabha committee added, “With her candidature, the various internal feuds get neutralised. Whatever each person’s grouse might be, the fact is that they are all shocked by the brazen murder and will work together to ensure she wins.”
The BJP meanwhile maintained that the candidature wouldn't have any impact. Nadia's BJP north unit president Jagganath Sarkar said, "Sympathy can't help win the polls. There might be some sympathy for her. But can people forget the oppression that TMC has put them through?"
Rupali told reporters, "I was not prepared for the nomination. But I will do my best to live up to the responsibility that has been given to me."
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