Bengal bypoll: Bhabanipur battle has turned out to be local issues vs state and national governance

Both TMC and BJP are leaving no stone unturned to win the Bhabanipur battle by focussing on local issues and national issues like hike in petrol prices, respectively.

Kolkata: Mamata Banerjee’s loss in Nandigram, a constituency in the East Medinipur district against BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari in the last poll makes the bypoll even more important than the 2021 state legislature election. Banerjee has to win the bypoll from her home constituency, Bhabanipur, to continue as Bengal Chief Minister.

This peculiar situation has led BJP to run a seamless star-studded campaign in the Bhabanipur constituency, accusing CM of the city’s civic problems like waterlogging. On the other hand, TMC is running an anti-BJP campaign based on farmer’s strikes, fuel price hikes, and the misgovernance of the central government.

Here is a list of issues that will make the most noise in the bypoll.

Local civic issues in Bhabanipur battle

The recent burst of non-stop rains in the city has proved to be a boon for the opposition. Parts of the city are still clogged with muddy waters. Around two days ago, Banerjee had to cancel her street corner due to waterlogging. Kolkata Municipal Corporation officials are reasoning the situation against the shadow of heavy rains that have choked the city’s drainage system. The ponds and the drains are filled to their brim.

BJP leadership is accusing CM of the situation. “We will gift her boat at her doorstep,” a leader said in the campaign today while mocking her election-winning scheme titled ‘Duare Sarkar’ (Government at the doorstep).

Walking around the city is indeed a problem due to hawker encroachment. Pavements of the main roads are mostly captured by the hawkers. Adding to the woes, are the sudden stops for hand-pulled rickshaws.

“Their poor living condition is much more of their concern,” Priyanka Tibrewal said once from a door-to-door campaign.

Trinamool Congress campaign is devoid of local civic issues and is relying on the state development works. “I have worked for the state development and have tried to resolve daily problems faced by people,” Banerjee said today at the street corner.

Local Development Vs State or National Issues

BJP has learned its lesson from the last state election. Their campaign for the Bhabanipur battle is based on core local issues like roads, water, and communal harmony. “People are not worried about the hike in petrol or diesel prices. They don’t ride vehicles daily,” BJP’s Tibrewal said.

Even union minister Hardeep Singh Puri is trying to highlight the locals. He met the beneficiaries of Modi’s Ujjala Scheme. They are trying to prove themselves as a party for the middle-class and poor women, TMC’s core voters.

Bengal bypoll: Bhabanipur battle has turned out to be local issues vs state and national governance
Mamata Banerjee at the street corner in Bhabanipur today

Meanwhile, TMC is trying to highlight the development of the state in their regime. “Today, West Bengal has 99% institutional births. We bring pregnant women to the transit camps for the safe birth of the kid,” TMC candidate Mamata Banerjee said.

She also attacked the opposition for being silent on farmer protests for almost eight months. “They did not even speak with the farmers. I have virtually spoken with the farmers and have sent a delegation to meet them in Delhi,” Banerjee added. The leader of the farmer protest and spokesperson of Bharatiya Kisan Union, Rakesh Tikait came to meet Mamata Banerjee during the 2021 state polls.

Rising Fuel Price

It is a burning issue for the green camp. They are trying to highlight the price hike of daily objects due to an increase in petrol and diesel price.

Like last polls, they are trying to reach women voters with the petrol price hike campaign. BJP is also trying to level the score by blaming the state for the non-inclusion of petrol and petrol commodities in the GST list. “We wanted to include petrol in the GST list of products. But the state did not let it happen,” said Hardeep Singh Puri, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister.

The religion blanket

Bengal bypoll: Bhabanipur battle has turned out to be local issues vs state and national governance
Bhabanipur battle: BJP’s Priyanka Tibrewal and Union Minister Puri in a Goddess Kali Temple

Both TMC and BJP are playing the religious card under the covers. Till the 2021 polls, religion was not the main election issue in Bengal. But since 2021 ‘covert religion’ has earned a special place. 

Union Minister Puri had started the campaign after visiting Gurudwara. Mamata Banerjee has also visited all the possible religious places. Today before attending the street corner, she visited the Jain Temple in her constituency. Interestingly, members of all communities have signed Banerjee’s nomination papers.

BJP is still attacking Mamata on Muslim appeasement politics. “I should not have said ‘boat at her doorstop’ but Shikara. She will like it more,” the BJP leader said. Mamata is building her attack on the recent incident in Tripura. It invoked Sec 144 till Diwali due to Covid.  “If Tripura has invoked Section 144, then how it will allow Durga Puja,” she said. Durga Puja festivities will begin on October 11.

Additionally, Mamata is trying to arouse Bengal’s ‘Mamata Banerjee’ sentiment. “This election is important for me. I cannot continue as CM if not voted to win this time,” she said today.

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