The electoral battle in the Midnapore Parliamentary constituency will be a litmus test for the ruling Trinamul Congress candidate, Dr Manas Bhunia as he is contesting against the BJP’s state president Dilip Ghosh.

The buzz in the constituency is that despite his years in public service, Dr Bhunia appears worried that a political novice like Mr Ghosh could turn the tables on him.

A former RSS in-charge of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and a successful organizer, Mr Ghosh calls himself ‘ekti chaser chele’ (a farmer’s son).

Among his party workers, he is highly acclaimed for his candid approach to politics and for calling spade a spade notwithstanding the brickbats from detractors.

Mr Ghosh is hardly apologetic about his frank outbursts. “I speak what I feel and perhaps that is the answer and the language Trinamul Congress understands well”.

Exuding confidence of winning the seat, Mr Ghosh said, “When I fought the Assembly election in 2016, I had little experience in politics, but I think I have matured quite a bit. If I could do it then, I can do now”.

“Being the sitting MLA from Kharagpur, I enjoy acceptance among the people of Midnapore. I have been at the forefront of struggles against the violence unleashed by the police and the Trinamul goons. We have boosted our organisational strength in the rural parts of the constituency”, Mr Ghosh said.

The veteran Congress turned Trinamul leader, Dr Bhunia had unsuccessfully contested from Ghatal as a Congress candidate against TMC’s Deepak Adhikary, popularly known as Dev, last time.

This time, however, he said, “Mamata Banerjee had done a lot for the district and it would be one reason why the people of Midnapore exercise their votes in my favour.”

Development agenda had worked for the TMC in 2016. This time too, while TMC leaders are harping on the issue of development brought about by their government, experts believe that it won’t cut ice with voters. “For example, I might have got a house under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana; but instead of getting the full Rs 1.2 lakh, I have got only Rs 80,000 as the rest had to be paid to the local TMC leader. Same is the case with road works etc where contractors will have to grease palms of TMC netas. These have not gone well with voters, “ a political analyst said.

On the flip side, the CPI candidate Biplab Bhatta’s fate could be viewed as tragic as the seat was represented by legendary parliamentarian and Marxist ideologue Indrajit Gupta for seven terms between 1980 and 1999.

Left leaders admit that it is getting increasingly harder to counter the BJP-TMC “secret alliance”, but they hope to make a strong fight against both TMC and BJP as the outgoing TMC MP Ms Sandhya Roy did nothing for the sake of Midnapore people and the BJP candidate is harping on religious issues which would not be accepted by the Midnapore residents. “People are searching for an alternative secular force which will lead the country and the Left candidate is the only alternative and so we are hoping to win the poll,” said a CPIM leader.

Left sympathisers, in search of a bit of ‘red’ hope, may find succour in these glorious electoral statistics. But if they travel through interior Midnapore, the more sensitive among them may also be driven to deep despair because the stark truth is that even after 34 years of Left Front rule and uninterrupted CPI-M dominance, the levels of poverty and under-development are staggering.

A trip to different places across the constituency reveals that BJP has gained much more people’s support than they had two years ago among the seven assembly constituencies. Many people living in Dantan and Keshiary alleged that most of the Trinamul supporters are disappointed with a section of Trinamul leaders for their involvement in endless corruption. “From sand lifting to panchayat projects, a section of Trinamul Congress leaders have looted crores of rupees. Local residents who once supported the Left and then Trinamul Congress are likely to cast their votes in favour of BJP candidate,” a local resident at Dantan said.

The total number of electors in the constituency is 1,499,673, out of which 770,363 are male candidates and 729,310 are females.