Kolkata, 10 May-2014, PTI: Stakes are high for Trinamool cadres in this sleepy town in the suburbs of Kolkata with party supremo and chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek fighting his debut poll, billed as a prestige battle, for a seat won by rebel TMC leader Somen Mitra, who resigned and switched over to Congress earlier this year.
Sporting rimless glasses and gelled hair, 26-year-old Abhishek may seem the antithesis to his aunt’s ‘maa-mati- manush’ image, but he is viewed as political heir to ‘Didi’.
Besides Abhishek, BJP’s Abhijit Das, Abul Hasnat of CPI(M) and Md Qamaruzzaman Qamar of Congress are seen as the main players among 16 contestants for this seat on the eastern banks of Hooghly river that has over 13 lakh electors. Political analysts say Abhishek’s nomination for the Lok Sabha polls was a matter of time, after he was introduced to politics by Mamata herself during the victory rally in 2011.
One of the few prominent faces of TMC, besides his ‘pishi’ (paternal aunt) Mamata, Abhishek is also the president of newly-formed Trinamool YUVA. His quick rise to the upper echelons of TMC has attracted criticism from Mamata’s detractors, who say she is promoting her elder brother Amit’s son when she has been a staunch critic of dynasty politics.
Abhishek’s debut, however, is by no means a cake-walk as the ‘first nephew’ has to fight ‘outsider’ tag in this popular weekend tourist spot that goes to polls on May 12. The Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha constituency, which has considerable minority population, had been a citadel of the Left from 1967 till 2009. In last Lok Sabha election, riding on the winds of change, Somen Mitra defeated four-time CPI(M) MP Samik Lahiri.
Observers say TMC has gone from strength to strength in the assembly segments in the South 24 Parganas district, which houses the Diamond Harbour seat.
In 2011 assembly polls, all the seven assembly seats under this Lok Sabha seat went to Trinamool. The party’s winning spree remained intact in last year’s Panchayat polls as well.
But with a series of big victories, South 24 Parganas has been one of the most affected districts plagued by alleged infighting within TMC, some say, adding that Abhishek’s candidature is expected to see the district leadership working together.
Minority voters, which comprise nearly 30 per cent of the total electorate, is a key factor. By nominating Hasnat, a well-known doctor, CPI(M) seems to have played the minority card. Unlike Abhishek, who is relying mostly on roadshows and public meetings, Hasnat is relying on door-to-door campaigns. “My sole aim will be the overall development of Diamond Harbour and to carry forward the developmental process started by Mamata Banerjee,” says Abhishek.
BJP is also a growing force here as this Lok Sabha segment is the third largest in terms of the party’s membership in the 42 parliamentary constituencies of the state.
A prominent issue in this district seems to be the victims of the chit fund scandal as Diamond Harbour houses many people who have been duped by Ponzi schemes. Former MP Somen Mitra, who is fighting this time from Kolkata North, was the first to draw attention to the menace of mushrooming chit funds.