TMC-BJP face off in crucial by-polls in Bengal

By-polls being held in three constituencies with substantial population of ‘migrants’


Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are engaged in a do-or-die battle for retaining political control in three constituencies where by-polls are taking place on Monday. Voters from Karimpur, Kaliaganj and Kharagpur Sadar will decide the electoral fate of the bitter rivals under the looming shadow of a proposed nationwide citizen’s register.

Ever since the National Register of Citizens (NRC) published on August 31, 2019 in neighbouring Assam left out over 19 lakh people, many of them Bengali Hindus and working-class Muslims, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been extremely vocal about her determination to ensure a similar exercise is not conducted in her state. She seems to have come a long way since her 2005 campaign against illegal migrants from Bangladesh, a move many political pundits attribute to minority appeasement for cultivating a dependable vote bank.

Meanwhile, BJP Chief Amit Shah has never minced words about the party’s desire to replicate Assam’s NRC across India. He reiterated his government’s commitment to conducting a nationwide NRC in the Lok Sabha just last week. So, what does this mean for the constituencies where by-polls are being held today?

Karimpur: Located in Nadia district, Karimpur is a part of the Murshidabad parliamentary constituency that the TMC won with a comfortable margin in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The assembly seat fell vacant after Mahua Moitra won the parliamentary constituency of Krishnnagar. Karimpur shares a 25-kilometer-long border with Bangladesh and it is alleged that close to a quarter of the electorate comprises Bangladeshis who crossed the border in wake of the 1971 war. The talk of NRC is therefore a huge cause for concern, putting any party, that advocates it, on shaky ground.

Kaliaganj: This falls under the Raiganj parliamentary constituency in Uttar Dinajpur district. By polls here were necessitated when sitting Congress MLA Pramatha Nath Roy passed away. Kaliaganj has a large population of Rajbanshis, as well as refugees and alleged illegal migrants from Bangladesh. It is alleged that right wing supremacist organisations want to club together Rajbanshis and Bengali Hindu migrants and refugees, leaving those from the Muslim community to bear the brunt of the proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB). Thus, results in this constituency will be a litmus test for the BJP.

Kharagpur Sadar: Located in West Midnapore district, it falls under the Medinipur parliamentary constituency. The seat fell vacant when Dilip Ghosh was elected Member of Parliament. However, this was once a Congress bastion with “chachaji” Gyan Singh Sohanpal winning a record 10 times from here! It is vital yet challenging for the BJP to hold on to this seat, with the TMC circling around like a shark.

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