May 12 is a landmark date for India, as the holy city of Varanasi would decide the fate of Indian elections this year. But there is another city that has hardly followed the footsteps of its own state for the past decade till 2009 elections turned it upside down—Kolkata.
Mamata Banerjee will be watching nervously as the capital of West Bengal goes to vote in the last phase of polling in the country. Kolkata has always been a support for Trinamool Congress (TMC) even when the hinterland was supporting the CPI(M) whole heartedly.
Kolkata set the stage where Mamata had defeated even CPI(M) stalwart Somnath Chatterjee. She has been the queen of South Kolkata retaining her MP status since 1991. Even after she resigned in 2011 to become the chief minister, at the byelections, the TMC candidate from South Kolkata Subrata Bakshi won by a even higher majority than Mamata in 2009. South Kolkata comprising of Kasba, Bhowanipore, Rashbehari, Behala, Bullygunj and Kolkata Port will surely see a winner in Bakshi.
Kolkata Uttar or North Kolkata constituency is composed of Chowranghee, Entally, Beleghata, Jorasanko, Shyampukur, Maniktala and Kashipur Belgachia, and has also seen thumping majority for TMC since 2009.
Like West Bengal, Kolkata will remain a stronghold for TMC this year as well. AAP which is otherwise a strong force in Delhi and other parts of the country, has not been able to put its act together in Bengal. It has fielded candidates Mudar Patherya and Alok Chaturvedi in the two constitutencies but are not expected to leave a dent on TMC’s vote bank.
But Mamata should be worried about Narendra Modi’s presence in the city. Though the BJP does not have any grassroot presence in West Bengal and is not likely to manage a sweep in the state apart from a few pockets, in the city it could be a worry. TMC must be watching not just its win but the share of its vote carefully. Voting for Modi will be both voting for a strong government in the centre and also for more “liberal” economic policies that could create better jobs in the state. All of these are bigger concerns in the city that is hardly famous for creating job opportunities or attracting newer investments.
Moreover. it is difficult to ignore a rising concern after scams like Saradha has come into the fore, where despite protests from the state government, the Supreme Court has now ordered for a CBI enquiry. There is also much concern for Mamata and her party’s growing arrogance and disrespect for other constitutional authorities like the Election Commission. Banerjee must be wary of a common joke among the people in the city: CPI(M) would not have found a better student and emulator of its own policies than it has found in Mamata Banerjee.
Congress might not be a concern for TMC, which apart from being weak in the state is facing negative vibes throughout the country. It seems unlikely that CPI(M) will find support in Kolkata when it has not found that for so many years. But Banerjee’s own statements in recent times have reflected her own insecurities in a war of words that has grown too personal and ugly, a war that could divide Kolkata when it goes to vote in a day. Whether Mamata’s fears are grounded on reality, one would know in less than a week from now.