It was only a matter of time that the Trinamool Congress announced Mamata Banerjee's candidature from Bhabanipur.
Mamata was defeated by BJP's Suvendu Adhikari in Nandigram in the recently concluded assembly polls and needed to be elected within six months to retain her chief ministership. And Bhabanipur in South Kolkata is where she has banked upon in the past as well.
According to BJP insiders, the Bengal unit is unhappy with the Election Commission's decision to hold bypolls in the state. It wanted EC to conduct the bypolls beyond the six-month period so Mamata would've had to relinquish her seat and face major embarrassment.
The central leadership, however, believed such a step would have manifested claims that the EC is controlled by BJP, and garnered more sympathy for 'Banglar Meye' (Daughter of Bengal). Also, it does not want the battle against Mamata to die down.
But now that bypolls in Bhabanipur have become a reality, how is the saffron camp gearing up? Interestingly, cracks have appeared in the Left-Congress alliance regarding the seat. While the Congress is yet to decide on whether or not to field a candidate, the Left is campaigning on its old "Mamata-BJP deal" plank.
"Some seven constituencies await by-elections, but dates for only three have been announced. There's clearly a deal between Mamata and BJP, which is why EC has announced dates for Bhabanipur. Mamata is not helping Opposition unity. Rather, she's busy playing her own card," alleged a CPI(M) leader.
Within Kolkata, Bhabanipur is considered a more upscale cosmopolitan area. Gujaratis, Punjabis, Marwaris and other non-Bengali communities constitute nearly 40 per cent of the population here. And it is this segment that the saffron camp is trying to woo.
If BJP sources are to be believed, Trinamool turncoat Dinesh Trivedi is a front-runner for this seat. In fact, in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, a consolidated non-Bengali vote in favour of BJP had given the Trinamool a major scare in this assembly segment. It was riding on this result that the BJP was mocking Mamata's switch to Nandigram. Now that Mamata is back in her constituency, it will be up to the BJP to damage her prospects.
Two more names doing the rounds on behalf of BJP were Suvendu Adhikari and actor-politician Rudranil Ghosh. Though Suvendu has expressed readiness to fight, the BJP is a bit wary. One, bypolls mostly favour the ruling party candidate, and two, Mamata is to Bhabanipur what Suvendu is to Nandigram. The BJP would not want to take the steam out of Suvendu in case he loses.
Rudranil, on the other hand, was the BJP candidate from Bhabanipur in the recently concluded elections and lost to Trinamool's Sovandeb Chattopadhyay by 28,000 votes. Sovandeb pocketed a whopping 57 per cent votes and later vacated the seat to facilitate Mamata's election.