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Old Kolkata's narrow lanes, by-lanes abuzz with poll fervour

Sunday, 11 May 2014 - 1:00pm IST | Place: Kolkata | Agency: PTI

  • TMC supporters

Sitting MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay of TMC is facing a tough challenge from former PCC chief and seven-time Congress MLA Somendra Nath Mitra, state BJP president Rahul Sinha and CPI(M)'s Rupa Bagchi in this Lok Sabha seat that symbolises the old-world charm of Kolkata.

Bounded by Chowringhee in the south, Beleghata in the east, Jorasanko in the west and Belgachia in the north, the Kolkata Uttar (North) constituency will go to polls tomorrow.

The narrow streets and by-lanes of the northern part of the metropolis belie the political unease. While Bandopadhyay, a close aide of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, won the last election by a margin of more than one lakh votes, political observers feel the 62-year-old Trinamool Congress chief whip in Lok Sabha will not have it easy this time.

Mitra, 73, who joined Trinamool Congress from Congress in 2008 and became Diamond Harbour MP in 2009, has returned to his old party ahead of Lok Sabha elections.

Known to be a Congress strongman in the state, Mitra's popularity reigns supreme in the Sealdah and Amherst Street areas of the constituency.

Bandopadhyay is extremely optimistic about retaining the seat. "Everything is fine and I will double my margin this time. I know the constituency like the back of my hand and have nursed it well," he says.

"I have been the leader of TMC in the Lok Sabha and people are aware about my performance there," he adds.

All the seven assembly segments in this Lok Sabha seat, including Chowringhee, Entally, Beleghata, Jorasanko, Shyampukur and Maniktala, have TMC MLAs after the May 2011 Assembly polls.

Like everywhere else, contestants are playing up road conditions and civic issues, among others.

"I will win for sure. I am saying this because the voters have turned their faces from the sitting MP as he is detached from the people. People have also lost trust in TMC, and on top of that, there is the (Narendra) 'Modi wave' which is sweeping the country," says the 50-year-old BJP candidate, Sinha.

Kolkata (North) remained the quintessential home of the metropolis for centuries from where it grew and flourished as a modern cosmopolitan city. The constituency nestles some prestigious institutions like Calcutta University, Scottish Church College, and Star Theatre, among others.

The constituency is home to nearly 14 lakh voters of which 30 per cent are Muslims concentrated in areas like Rajabazar and Belgachia. CPI(M)'s Bagchi, the lone woman among the 18 aspirants for the seat, claims to have support from Urdu- speaking women. "From the number of visits I have made so far in the constituency, I am getting a very positive response," she adds. Bagchi, 48, a known face in the struggle for empowerment of slum-dwellers and urban poor of Kolkata, feels the administration needs to ensure proper voting.

"We are particularly worried about what happened in the third phase of polls," she says. After delimitation, Calcutta North West (Lok Sabha constituency) and Calcutta North East (Lok Sabha constituency) ceased to exist and Kolkata Uttar (Lok Sabha constituency) came into being.

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