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After ‘Sagardighi model’, Bengal’s Opposition ideating a ‘Diamond Harbour model’ to challenge Trinamool

The Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha seat in West Bengal is a point of discussion in state’s politics these days.

Naushad Siddiqui, the lone MLA in West Bengal representing the Indian Secular Front (ISF), is eager to contest and defeat Trinamool Congress MP and national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee in the Lok Sabha elections next year. Banerjee represents the Diamond Harbour constituency in south Bengal. The ISF was a Left-ally in the state’s assembly elections, held in 2021.

The BJP-Bengal leader Suvendu Adhikari claims that he will have Trinamool lose the seat in the upcoming Parliament elections. Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has said that if Siddique contests, then it’s dangerous for the Trinamool candidate.

CPI(M) state secretary Md Salim, on Tuesday, said that what people and the parties will agree to, that will happen, adding that any decision on the choice of a candidate is a collective decision and takes place after a series of meetings.

The Trinamool, meanwhile, sees the comments of the Opposition camp as “just political stunts to stay relevant in the media”. “No matter who contests the Diamond Harbour seat, Trinamool Congress will win,” a senior party leader had said on Monday.

The Opposition’s optimism – specifically concerning the Diamond Harbour seat – stems, apparently, from an earlier political experiment, now popular in political parlance as the “Sagardighi model”.

In the by-election held in the state’s Sagardighi assembly constituency earlier this year, a Left-backed Congress candidate defeated the Trinamool candidate, securing over 47 per cent votes. The Trinamool’s vote percentage dipped to 35 per cent, from around 51 per cent in the 2021 assembly election.

While several factors were at play, broadly, the Left-Congress understanding was considered an important factor for the victory. The seat had been with the Trinamool since 2011. The party blamed the ‘immoral alliance’, claiming a ‘transfer’ of BJP’s votes to the Left-backed Congress candidate.

The Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha constituency, traditionally a Left bastion, has been with the Trinamool Congress since 2009. Banerjee is a second-term MP from the seat and had bagged around 56 per cent votes polled in the 2019 elections. The BJP stood second with over 33 per cent votes. The CPI(M) and the Congress candidates got over six per cent and around 1.4 per cent votes respectively.

In 2014, the Trinamool’s vote share was around 40 per cent. The CPI(M), and the Congress, had around 35 per cent, and 5 per cent votes, respectively. The BJP had around 16 per cent of the votes.

If assessed in the context of 2014 elections, a Left-Congress candidate is expected to offer a tough challenge. However, the 2019 outcomes clearly make the BJP the toughest opponent for the Trinamool. Further, the assembly constituency results of 2021 also went in Trinamool’s favour.

Banerjee – representing Diamond Harbour constituency – has steered two major political campaigns in recent times – a 60-day public outreach programme covering the state from north to south, and a campaign against Centre’s freeze of funds to the state for public welfare schemes.

Senior Trinamool leader and minister in the state government Shashi Panja when asked if an “alternative” candidate, offered jointly by major Opposition players could polarise votes, or could go in BJP’s favour, said that Trinamool’s political opponents have such calculations. She termed any polarisation strategy as unfortunate.

“Abhishek Banerjee is not a person who is going to run away from any electoral maidan…. There was an attempt, ‘Sagardighi model’… Now they are talking of the ‘Diamond Harbour model’… Their models only gain pace when there’s elections,” Panja told DH.

Could a non-BJP, non-Trinamool candidate make it through? Udayan Bandyopadhyay, political analyst, has a different take. Siddiqui’s candidacy – even if backed by Left-Congress, can lead to division of minority-community votes. “This could help the BJP, as there would be a consolidation of votes of the majority community,” Bandyopadhyay told DH.

(Published 08 November 2023, 08:32 IST)

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