The winners are Tapandeb Singha at Kaliaganj, Bimalendu Singha Roy at Karimpur and Pradip Sarkar at Kharagpur.
Kolkata: Riding the mood against the National Register of Citizens and Citizen-ship (Amendment) Bill in West Bengal, the Trinamul Congress has washed away the BJP’s saffron surge after the Lok Sabha polls in the state, bagging all three constituencies in the Assembly bypolls with new faces comfortably. Of the three seats, it won two — Kharagpur Sadar in West Midna-pore and Kaliaganj in North Dinajpur — for the first time, while retaining the Karimpur seat in Nadia.
While chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s party reaped benefits out of the controversy over the NRC and the Citizenship Bill at Kaliaganj, earlier with Congress, and Karimpur seats due to its proximity to the India-Bangladesh border, it also successfully decimated the BJP at Kharagpur in a prestige fight as state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh, now Midnapore MP, was the MLA there in 2016. The winners are Tapandeb Singha at Kaliaganj, Bimalendu Singha Roy at Karimpur and Pradip Sarkar at Kharagpur.
Trinamul’s blow to the BJP, close on the heels of its failure in government formation in Maharashtra and also within six months of its winning 18 Lok Sabha seats out of the state’s 42, was such havoc that its state headquarters in heart of Kolkata wore a deserted look since Thursday morning, with the announcement of the results, similar to the scene at Ms Banerjee’s residence at Harish Chatterjee Street in Kalighat soon after the Lok Sabha results.
Attributing the BJP’s “arrogance” and “audacity” for its defeat, the Trinamul chief underlined the impact of the NRC and Citizenship Bill, that BJP’s Kaliaganj candidate, Kamal Chandra Sarkar, also acknowledged had “damaged” the party. Ms Banerjee said: “The people are seeing how the BJP is playing politics in the NRC’s name. If someone declares you are not a citizen of the country after 72 years of Independence, no one would accept it.”
She elaborated: “We have got the votes of Hindus, the minority community, Rajbanshis, tribals, non-Bengalis (in case of Kharagpur) and others. Winning few seats the BJP however started displaying arrogance and audacity. They are setting Central agencies after anyone they want and sending whosoever to jail. People from here were killed in Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. In democracy, one party comes to power while another cannot. But there is a sweetness.”
She added: “The people’s mandate is the biggest verdict. We never won Kaliaganj and Kharagpur since our party’s foundation. We lagged at Kaliaganj and Kharagpur by around 57,000 and 47,000 votes respectively earlier. So we had to overcome a huge margin in the bypolls. This is the first time the people from there reposed their faith in us. We are indebted to them. We dedicate this victory to them.”
Echoing her, Mr Sarkar said: “What harmed us is NRC. We failed to make up the damage. It was our weakness. There was nothing else. Trinamul inflicted the damage so deeply on us that people got panicked. The NRC is being done from the Centre. It is damaging the Centre also. But we face the impact.”
But BJP leader Mukul Roy, who predicted that the party would win all three seats after meeting Union home minister Amit Shah recently, argued: “I spoke about winning three out of three like Ms Banerjee earlier claimed of her party’s victory in all 42 seats in the Lok Sabha polls. But the assessment goes wrong in Bengal politics often. An introspection is needed why people did not vote the BJP to win in Kharagpur and Kaliaganj. Still, the bypolls cannot be the basis of the general election.”