On the eve of the Lok Sabha by-election from Jangipur, President Pranab Mukherjee’s son Abhijit Mukherjee, the Congress candidate, said here on Tuesday that he was “hundred per cent confident of being elected” even though he was well aware that it had become a cliché “that every candidate will cite”.
The by-election was necessitated when Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, who represented Jangipur for more than eight years, resigned his membership of the Lok Sabha to contest the Presidential poll recently. In the month-long campaigning that Jangipur has seen, Abhijit has dominated the scene.
Though 11 candidates, including Sudhanshu Biswas of Bharatiya Janata Party, are in the race, the main contest is believed to be between the Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Jangipur has always swung from one to the other.
Initially the seat was with the Congress; the CPI (M) secured it in 1977 and held it till 2004, with the 1996 general elections being the only exception. Since 2004, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee had been at the helm here.
Significantly, although the nominations for the election were filed well after the Trinamool Congress and the Congress parted ways, the former had not nominated a candidate.
While the Trinamool leadership has projected it as a “promise” that party chairperson Mamata Banerjee had made to Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, the Congress points out that her party did so to make sure that its organisational weaknesses are not exposed.
Although the Congress camp appears confident, the CPI (M) campaign has focused on the recent “anti-people” decisions taken by the Centre, particularly the frequent hikes in fuel prices, and reductions in fertilizer subsidies.
The CPI (M) campaign has presented Mr. Pranab Mukherjee as the one responsible for these decisions in his role as the Union Finance Minister, and surmised that his son is likely to continue this.
The CPI(M) candidate, Mujaffar Hossen, has also targeted Mr. Pranab Mukherjee for the work done by him in Jangipur, particularly “the setting up of branches of banks and the inauguration of ATMs” at the cost of other development projects.
The by-election has already witnessed violence. Two supporters of the CPI(M) have been killed, which the party claims has been done to intimidate voters.
A little more than a year ago, during the Assembly elections in West Bengal, the Congress had won five of the seven Assembly segments that make Jangipur; its electoral partner, the Trinamool, had won one, and the CPI(M) only managed to secure the Nabagram seat.
Wednesday’s election will show how much ground, if any, the CPI(M) has been able to gain here.