Trinamool Congress looks to maintain dream run in its Kolkata South bastion | India News – Times of India


KOLKATA: If one were to identify one seat out of the 42 in West Bengal as a bastion of Trinamool Congress, it would undoubtedly be Kolkata South that Mamata Banerjee and then her party colleagues (after she stepped down in 2011 and contested as an MLA to become CM) have held for 33 years.
Kolkata South also stands out for its distinct political landscape where out of the seven assembly segments, winners in five were state cabinet members until July 2022 when one of them — Partha Chatterjee who won from Behala West — was arrested for his alleged involvement in a teaching job scam.
First as a Youth Congress functionary and then as Trinamool Congress founder, Mamata had won the seat for six consecutive terms from 1991 before passing on the baton to Subrata Bakshi who won in 2011 (byelection) and then in 2014. Mala Roy, who won in 2019 is defending the seat this time. What tilts the scales further in TMC’s favour is the significant 28% Muslim voters in the constituency who are expected to stay loyal to the party.
“With due respect to my opposition candidates, I’m 200% confident of winning,” said Roy. “Not just because of our solid presence and base in this constituency but also because of my own track record here. My work speaks for itself. After Sougata Roy, I have asked the most questions in Parlia ment among Bengal MPs. Opposition parties are trying to malign us. They are even using multiple agencies to harass our functionaries. But the more they do so, the worse they will fare in this elections,” said Roy, who is also a local councillor and chairperson of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation.
In 2019, Roy had trounced her nearest competitor, BJP’s Chandra Kumar Bose, by more than 1.6 lakh votes. The latter, grandnephew of Subhas Chandra Bose, is no longer in the party.
Roy has a star-studded support team in the constituency. CM Banerjee is herself the Bhowanipore MLA. Urban development minister and Kolkata mayor Firhad Hakim represents Kolkata Port. Javed Ahmed Khan from Kasba is the disaster management minister and Babul Supriyo from Ballygunge is the head of non-conventional and renewable energy sources ministry. Then there is Debasis Kumar from Rasbehari who is the KMC’s mayoral council member (parks and square). Ratna Chatterjee from Behala Purba, the estranged wife of former mayor Sovan Chatterjee, is another influential functionary.
With such heavyweight presence alongside many minority voters in the 18.5 lakh-strong electorate, political observers and analysts believe it is a nocontest in three assembly segments: Kolkata Port, Ballygunge and Kasba. And that, they believe, is enough to win the Kolkata South seat yet again.
BJP has fielded Debasree Chaudhuri, the outgoing Lok Sabha member from Raiganj Parliamentary constituency in North Dinajpur district, against Roy. While many termed Chaudhuri’s ejection from her stronghold Raiganj to the comparatively lesser-known turf of Kolkata South as more of an exile, the former Union junior minister for woman and child development views it as an opportunity to prove her worth in Trinamool’s strongest seat.

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“It’s a TMC stronghold alright but one that is built on lies and corruption and my job is to breach the fortress. That is the reason why the party brass has chosen me to contest from this seat. Among the five ministers in this constituency, one is in jail, and some are on bail. It tells you a lot about the party,” said Chaudhuri.
Though BJP has never won the seat, the first MP to be elected in 1952 from the constituency — then known as Calcutta South-East — was Syama Prasad Mookerjee, founder of BJP’s predecessor Bharatiya Jana Sangh.
Also in the fray is CPM’s Saira Shah Halim, the daughter-in-law of Bengal’s longest-serving speaker Hashim Abdul Halim and niece of actor Naseeruddin Shah and daughter of former deputy chief of Army staff, Lt Gen Zameer Uddin Shah.
A relative newcomer to politics, Saira has been praised for her role in rejuvenating the CPM’s prospects in the closely contested Ballygunge assembly bypoll in 2022. She surprised many by finishing second ahead of BJP’s Keya Ghosh. Although Saira lost to Trinamool’s Babul Supriyo by 20,000 votes, her performance resulted in a significant 24% increase in her party’s vote share.
However, Kolkata South is a different ballgame. The Left has won the seat only three times in the past: 1967, 1980 and 1989. But Saira says she is not daunted by the task at hand.
“BJP is tinkering with the Constitution and Trinamool is full of corruption. People here are fed up with them and need an honest representative. People have seen how red volunteers have worked during Covid and showered their faith upon me in the 2022 bypoll. This cosmopolitan constituency needs a progressive and educative face and there is none better than me,” said the writer, activist and educator who was a business development and communications trainer with the West Bengal Electronics Industry Development Corporation Ltd before she took the political plunge.


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