Ex-colleagues slug it out in key Kolkata clash | India News – Times of India

Ex-colleagues slug it out in key Kolkata clash | India News – Times of India

Trinamool Congress’s Sudip Bandyopadhyay, 75, has won the Kolkata North seat ever since it was formed in 2009 irrespective of the opposition, be it Congress or BJP, but he has to see off the ‘challenge’ from a few within the party ranks this time. However, with chief minister Mamata Banerjee having thrown her weight behind him, Bandyopadhyay should be able to maintain his winning run.
The simmering discontent within Trinamool ranks boiled over after the party’s long-time loyalist Tapas Roy defected to BJP. The departure of Roy, a vocal critic of Bandyopadhyay, after being in Trinamool for more than two decades reignited the conflict between the old guards and Young Turks in the party with Roy, 67, embodying the sentiments of the new generation. Irked over the disagreements on the renomination of Bandyopadhyay who also enjoys Mamata’s confi dence, Roy quit the party.
On the face of it, Kolkata North is a Trinamool fortress. Bandyopadhyay won it in 2019 by more than 1.3 lakh votes, pocketing 50% of the votes polled. In an increasingly bipolar contest, BJP got 36.6%. In the 2021 state elections, Trinamool won all seven assembly segments which make up the Kolkata North LS constituency.
“Sudip Da is not on good terms with most of the local functionaries, MLAs, and councillors in North Kolkata. Several disgruntled councillors will be indifferent or might play a passive role on the polling day, which is concerning,” said a senior Trinamool functionary from the constituency. Kolkata Municipal Corporation ward No.49 councillor Monalisa Banerjee went a step further by protesting openly and even joined sitin-demonstrations after being sidelined by Bandyopadhyay.
On the other hand, when Roy was selected as Trinamool Congress president for North Kolkata, he became close with most of the councillors for his ‘open door’ policy.
“We cannot forget Roy because we always had free access to his office and residence. As the chief of the party’s north Kolkata district, he would often listen to our problems and offer solutions,” said a councillor who represents a ward under Maniktala assembly constituency. Kunal Ghosh, who was removed from his party general secretary post for terming BJP candidate Roy the “most competent” in the fray, had also been critical of Bandyopadhyay. Ghosh has now buried the hatchet. Mamata and Kolkata mayor Firhad Hakim have asked councillors to throw their weight behind the party candidate.
“The BJP candidate is trying to harm Sudip Da. He was arrested for no fault. But he did not leave the party even after his arrest. On the other hand, he (Roy) fled just because the ED raided him,” Mamata said at a public meeting.
After 136 days in custody, Bandyopadhyay was granted bail by the Odisha High Court in May 2017 in the Rose Valley case. He was arrested by the CBI in Jan that year. Roy’s Bowbazar home was raided by ED on Jan 12 this year and he defected to BJP on March 4.
Over the years, BJP has made considerable inroads in the constituency and gained some ground after young faces like Tamoghna Ghosh and Sajal Ghosh shifted from TMC to BJP. Many consider that Roy’s experienced leadership and his “straight-forward” image coupled with his expansive knowledge about the constituency will work as Bandyopadhyay’s “antidote.”
Roy too has some limitations, such as a lack of a strong organisational support across the constituency. BJP has organised campaigns in northern pockets, but Roy knows there is a significant minority and anti-BJP vote in the constituency.
Throughout his political career, Roy has practised secular politics but one of the questions that is doing the rounds is whether he can secure votes for Modi. While voters may not be dissatisfied with Roy, they have reservations about the BJP. There is scepticism in political circles about how much support he can garner for the party.
“There is also uncertainty about Roy’s political future; whether he will stay with the BJP after the elections, regardless of win or lose. The voters and BJP’s lower-level workers too feel such an uncertainty,” said a BJP functionary from Kolkata North.
The constituency has no Left candidates. Congress has fielded veteran Pradip Bhattacharya with the hope of breaking the TMC-BJP binary in the seat.

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Ironically, the three main candidates are former colleagues and acquaintances who have opposed the Left throughout their careers, but now find themselves contesting against each other, despite all being originally from Congress.

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