Abhishek is pitted against 15 candidates
Of the 17 seats going to polls on Monday, Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha seat on the eastern bank of the Hooghly in South 24 Parganas district has presented an interesting contest with Trinamool Congress (TMC) chairperson Mamata Banerjee perceiving heir apparent - nephew Abhishek Banerjee - testing political waters from the seat. Ms. Banerjee, who has always been critical of dynastic politics, had tried hard to defend her decision to field her nephew while canvassing for him.
At an election rally in the constituency, she expressed her reservations on Mr. Banerjee being labelled “Mamata Banerjee’s nephew”. “I do not want them to use my name. They should work for people. They should work hard,” Ms. Banerjee said on giving the ticket to his nephew. The Trinamool chairperson on other occasions has gone to the extent of saying that his nephew was keen on politics even when he was two years old.
“In 1990, when I was attacked by the CPI (M) and had bandages on my head, Abhishek, who was a little child then, used to say 'I will join politics...when I grow up I will see why they had attacked my aunt'," she said.
But much of Mr. Banerjee’s campaign is hinged on the fact that he is the TMC chairperson’s nephew. During the two-month election campaign as he campaigned in the Diamond Harbour town and the rural hinterland, he was repeatedly introduced as “Mamata Banerjee’s bhaipho (nephew)”
Though the opposition is targeting him for being an “outsider” and new to politics, the 26-year-old MBA graduate is no greenhorn to politics. After the party’s success in the 2011 Assembly polls, the Trinamool Congress launched both Abhishek Banerjee and Trinamool Yuva, a youth outfit of the party, which he was in charge of. Ms. Banerjee’s decision to launch nephew and then give ticket to him had not gone well with a section of leaders in the party but they had to reconcile with the fact. Now for the Trinamool, Diamond Harbour seat is a prestige fight and party leaders, MLAs, and workers are going the extra mile to ensure Mr. Banerjee’s victory.
Clad in typical political attire and wearing a plastic smile during his campaign, Mr. Banerjee toes the party line and talks like a seasoned politician about how the Trinamool has remained with the people.
He also advocates the need to strengthen the hands of the Trinamool Congress so that it can extract the due of people of Bengal from the Centre and how people want a commoner like his aunt (Ms. Banerjee) as the Prime Minister.
Mr. Banerjee is pitted against 15 candidates at Diamond Harbour but his significant political rivals are Abul Hasnat of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Qamruzzaman Qamar of the Congress, and Abhijit Das of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The Trinamool has a clear advantage as it had won all the seven Assembly segments in 2011 Assembly polls and prior to that defeated the CPI (M) candidate in 2009 Lok Sabha polls. Since 1977-2004, the electorate in the Lok Sabha constituency, a sizable section of which are minorities, had voted for the candidates of the Left parties.
Among other issues that will determine the choice of the 15.5 lakh electors in the constituency is also the Saradha scam as thousands of investors duped of their savings are from this constituency.