W Bengal-Assam Polls: Key Candidates In 1st Phase

As West Bengal and Assam goes for polling for the first phase of assembly elections on Saturday, here’s a look at several key candidates from both states.

The election for West Bengal’s 30 Assembly constituencies during the first phase covers all constituencies from the districts of Purulia and Jhargram and some constituencies from Bankura, Purba Medinipur and Paschim Medinipur.
In, West Bengal’s Purulia, sitting MLA of Congress Sudip Mukherjee who joined the BJP recently is contesting. In the last assembly election, Mukherjee had defeated Jyoti Prasad Singh Deo of TMC. In 2021 polls, Congress has fielded Partha Pratim Banerjee and TMC has fielded Sujoy Banerjee.

Shantiram Mahato, Minister for Self Help Group and Self-employment and P.U.P department is contesting from Balarampur constituency from Purulia district, while Uttam Kumar Bandyopadhyay is contesting from Congress.

Congress’ Nepal Chandra Mahato is contesting from Baghmundi constituency in Purulia. Ashutosh Mahato is fielded from All Jharkhand Students Union AJSU party, an ally of the BJP while Sushanta Mahato is contesting from TMC.

In the Medinipur constituency in Paschim Medinipur district, TMC has fielded actor June Maliah after the death of the sitting MLA Mrigendra Nath Maiti in December 2020. BJP has fielded Samit Kumar Das. From CPIM, Tarun Kumar Ghosh is contesting.

The party has fielded Partha Pratim Das against Santanu Pramanik of BJP and Himangshu Das of CPI(M) in Khejuri, which is a seat reserved for scheduled castes in East Medinipur district.

TMC veteran and incumbent MLA Akhil Giri are contesting from the Ramnagar constituency in Purba Medinipur. The BJP has fielded Swadesh Ranjan Nayak. Sabyasachi Jana is contesting from CPI (M).

In the Kharagpur constituency, the contest is between Dinen Roy (TMC), Tapan Bhuiya (BJP) and Sk.Saddam Ali (CPIM).

Bankura houses around 42 per cent of SC and ST voters, which are the main targets of the three parties. The rural population of Bankura stands at 92.67 per cent. TMC has fielded actor Sayantika Banerjee against BJP’s Niladri Sekhar Dana, while Radha Rani Benerjee will be contesting from Congress. The Bankura seat went to Congress candidate Shampa Daripa in 2016, who later joined Trinamool.

Chandana Bauri, a daily wager is contesting on the BJP ticket from Satlora (SC) constituency in the Bankura district. Sontosh Kumar Mondal is contesting from TMC. Nandadulal Bauri is from CPI (M).

In Jhargram constituency, TMC’s Birbaha Hansda will face off against BJP’s Sukhmoy Satpati. Jhargram carries a great deal of significance for the parties. Once known as a den for Maoists, the district is dominated by SC/ST communities – Santhals and Kurmis. The Kurmis have electoral importance in about 30 out of the 42 constituencies in the region, so both parties are fighting hard to gain the support of the community.

Although BJP had secured a strong position in Purulia and Jhargram in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, many believe that the ruling TMC has somehow managed to garner back some support through new programmes such as ‘Duare Sarkar’.

The first phase of polling will decide the electoral fate of 191 candidates including 21 women.

TMC had won 27 out of these 30 seats in the 2016 elections and BJP was not a major player in the last polls. However, the party has gained in strength in the past five years and has emerged as the main challenger to the ruling party which has won two successive assembly polls.

The BJP won 18 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections against 22 won by the TMC.

Congress had won two seats going to the polls in the first phase and Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) had won one seat.

In Assam, the stage is set for the polling in 47 constituencies in 12 districts on March 27 in the state where the BJP government is seeking to regain power in the 126-member legislature. Prominent leaders including Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) president Atul Bora, Assam Congress chief Ripun Bora and several ministers are in the fray.

Sonowal is seeking re-election from Majuli, a seat he wrested from Congress’ Rajib Lochan Pegu in the 2016 Assembly elections. Pegu, who had won the seat for three straight terms since 2001, has again been fielded by Congress.

Assam Assembly Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami is in the poll battle from Jorhat, ministers Ranjit Dutta from Behali, Naba Kumar Doley from Jonai and Sanjoy Kishan from Tinsukia.

The fate of ministers from NDA ally Asom Gana Parishad (AGP)- Atul Bora from Bokakhat and Keshab Mahanta from Kaliabor- will also be sealed during the first phase of polling on March 27.

Ripun Bora is trying his luck from Gohpur seat, where his wife Monika Bora lost in the 2016 polls. The 60-year-old leader will face sitting BJP MLA Utpal Bora.

Among other high-profile candidates in the first phase include Congress Legislature Party leader Debabrata Saikia who is contesting from Nazira, AICC Secretary Bhupen Borah from Bihpuria and former ministers Bharat Narah from Naoboicha, Pranatee Phukan from Naharkatiya and Rakibul Hussain from Samaguri.

Congress has fielded Jyoti Baruah in party stronghold Titabar, a seat held by former chief minister Tarun Gogoi till his death on November 23, 2020. BJP candidate Hemanta Kalita will contest against Baruah.

Lurinjyoti Gogoi, president of newly-floated regional political party Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) will contest from two seats– Duliajan and Naharkatia which will go to polls in the first phase.

The fate of jailed anti-CAA activist and Raijor Dal chief Akhil Gogoi from Sibsagar will be decided in the first phase. Gogoi, a peasant leader, is in jail since December 2019 in connection with a National Investigation Agency (NIA) case for his role in the anti-CAA protests in Assam. He was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

As Raijor Dal had reportedly failed to register with the election commission as a political party, all the Raijor Dal candidates will contest the polls as independent candidates.

Assam Jatiya Parishad and Raijor Dal are contesting the polls in an alliance.

The state, in its three-phased polls, is witnessing a direct fight between the BJP-Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Congress-AIUDF alliance. The BJP is banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governance, Central public welfare schemes and on the image of Chief Minister Sarbanand Sonowal.

While Congress is heading into the battle against the ruling party bringing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to the fore.

A total of 264 candidates are in the fray from 47 seats– 42 seats from 11 districts of Upper Assam and northern Assam region and five seats from central Assam’s Nagaon district going to polls in the first phase. (ANI)

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