Campaigning for the by-elections for three West Bengal Assembly seats due this Saturday ended on Thursday.
The by-polls from Rejinagar constituency in Murshidabad district, Nalhati in Birbhum district and English Bazar in Malda district are the first major elections after the three-year alliance between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress ended in September 2012.
The by-polls were necessitated after the two sitting Congress legislators, Krishnendu Narayan Choudhury from English Bazar and Humayn Kabir from Rejinagar, left their party and joined the Trinamool Congress. The Nalhati seat fell vacant after Congress MLA Abhijit Mukherjee won the election for the Jangipur Lok Sabha seat vacated by his father Pranab Mukherjee.
The elections are also significant as both Mr Chowdhury and Mr Kabir who were subsequently appointed Ministers are contesting the elections for their respective seats as Trinamool Congress candidates. Senior Trinamool Congress leaders including Ministers have extensively campaigned for the party candidates in the three seats.
For the Congress which had won all three seats in the 2011 Assembly elections, the polls are important as defeat could mean more leaders leaving the party for the Trinamool Congress. Victory would baulk efforts by the Trinamool Congress to make inroads into the Congress strongholds like Malda and Murshidabad. State Congress leaders had campaigned during the elections with a call to defeat those who have switched sides and joined the Trinamool Congress.
The Left Front candidates are expected to gain from division of the votes between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress. During the 2011 Assembly elections, 39 per cent of the votes polled in English Bazar and Nalhati Assembly seats and 44 per cent in the Rejinagar seat were in favour of the Left Front candidates. The results of the by-polls will be announced on February 28.