Despite the hype that the BJP has got through the campaigns of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Dum Dum constituency is going to witness a fight mainly between the sitting Trinamool candidate Saugata Roy and the CPI-M candidate Nepaldeb Bhattacharya. The BJP candidate Samik Bhattacharya has lost the last Lok Sabha elections to his Trinamool Congress rival in Bashirhat Parliamentary constituency of North 24- Parganas.
In 2014, Trinamul Congress won Dum Dum seat by a margin of 1,54,934 votes and controls five (Baranagar, Kardah, Panihati, Dum Dum, Rajarhat Gopalpur) out of the seven assembly segments.
The CPI-M has sitting MLAs in two Assembly segments (Kamarhati and Dum Dum North). The numbers are strongly in favour of Trinamool Congress and the BJP will have to put in herculean efforts to cause any upset.
A blowing wind of change is quite apparent in the Dum Dum Lok Sabha constituency where voters agree that the Trinamool has accomplished many development works but don’t deny that the BJP is making inroads into the constituency. A survey of the constituency reveals that there has been a tacit understanding between the BJP and now “redundant” CPI-M under which the latter will likely shift its share of votes to the BJP to help it gain a toehold in the constituency.
The veteran Trinamool candidate for the Dum Dum Lok Sabha constituency Saugata Roy, who is the sitting MP, said: “I still consider CPI-M to be the main rival since in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, I won with a vote share of 43.30 per cent and behind me was the then CPI-M candidate, Ashim Kumar Dasgupta, with a vote share of 29.42 per cent while the then BJP candidate Tapan Sikdar ended on the third position with 22.83 per cent.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, there is not much apparent activity on the part of the BJP and they lack the mechanism to woo the voters. There is, however, an undercurrent of the BJP that can be felt. But I doubt that they will be able to garner enough votes in this constituency.”
Mr Roy added: “I have contested in at least 13 elections and five times in Lok Sabha polls. There has always been a good response from the voters in Dum Dum Lok Sabha constituency and I have never felt that I have any chance of losing from here. We will also win from the Kamarhati Assembly constituency where chief minister Mamata Banerjee held a road show on 10 May.”
The party insiders, however, felt that due to lack of co-ordination with local panchayat leaders of Kardah rural areas, Mr Roy’s vote share may decrease. Moreover, Dum Dum (North) where CPI-M has its MLAs have some vulnerable pockets where the CPI-M votes could be transferred to the BJP. In Kamarhati, there is a Muslim burial ground that was renovated with Rs 14 lakh approximately. Mr Roy remarked: “The BJP might get maximum four to five seats in West Bengal and 150 all India.”
The BJP candidate, Samik Bhattacharya, said: “The BJP believes in ‘stable government, able leadership’. The Dum Dum Lok Sabha constituency is considered as a real political battlefield and we will put up a good fight here. The TMC is only about big words and no work. People are frustrated with TMC’s tyranny. BJP on the other hand will restore democracy and people are confident in reposing their faith in us. Nothing is impossible for us and that was evident in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls where no one thought BJP will form the government by ousting Congress.”
Commenting on whether he thinks the Left vote base will shift to BJP in West Bengal to oust Trinamul, Mr Bhattacharya said “The condition of the Left here is nijer bari jolche joluk,charpoka ta toh pure moruk (If my house is burning, let it burn. At least, the vermin in the house will die). The Left also wants to drive Trinamul out of West Bengal at all cost. The TMC government has failed to create employment in the state,” he alleged.
The Dum Dum Lok Sabha constituency will go for polls on 19 May. Sujit Bardhan, a voter and resident of the Panihati Assembly constituency, was sitting under a tree shade in the searing heat when he told The Statesman “The Trinamul has done several development works in this constituency but still the wind of change is very apparent. We are noticing that the BJP is gaining prominence among the voters but we’re not sure why. Panihati was once considered the Left bastion of the state but at present, the presence of the Left is fading away, leaving the party redundant. The votes for the CPIM supporters could likely shift towards the BJP.”
Meanwhile, the veteran CPI-M leader and candidate for Dum Dum Lok Sabha constituency, Nepal Dev Bhattyacharya, told The Statesman: “People understand what TMC has done in the state and even realised that perhaps CPI-M was the better option. The Trinamul claims industry is increasing but most factories are shutting down while the global business summit is turning out to be a damp squib instead. The youths are jobless and are opting for errand jobs such as food delivery while others are becoming civic volunteers with no growth prospects. There is no structural development in the state but only cosmetic development.”
Asked whether the Left vote base will shift to BJP, he said: “The TMC needs to be ousted but perhaps the people think that BJP is now in a position to carry that out, instead of CPI-M. New voters will, however, be casting their votes this time and hence the votes will perhaps be divided between BJP and CPI-M. I am confident that TMC can only be removed by the Left.” He mentioned that he has even heard the RSS campaigning using the tagline “2019 a Ram and 2021 a Bam” (BJP in 2019 and CPI-M in 2021) which could possibly mean that if the CPI-M could help the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls the BJP will return the favour by helping reinstate the CPI-M in West Bengal in the 2021 Assembly elections.