Lok Sabha Elections: A Look At Krishnanagar Constituency As TMC Announces Mahua Moitra In Candidate Lineup

Lok Sabha Elections: A Look At Krishnanagar Constituency As TMC Announces Mahua Moitra In Candidate Lineup

Moitra has been renominated from Krishnanagar, which is among the 35 Lok Sabha seats in the state that has been identified by the BJP for victory.

Jayanta BhattacharyaUpdated: Sunday, March 10, 2024, 07:45 PM IST
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Mahua Moitra | File

A list of 42 of all 42 candidates for Lok Sabha constituencies in West Bengal from the All India Trinamool Congress – popularly known as TMC – loudly sounded Mamata Banerjee’s disdain for the Congress. And thus happened the burial of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) in the East.

As the chief minister and TMC chairperson took the candidates on a ramp-walk in the crowded rally at Brigade Parade Grounds, her nephew, party General Secretary, and MP, Abhishek Banerjee took to announcing their names.

One of the names was that of an MP, expelled on charges of cash-for-questions towards the end of the 17th session of Lok Sabha – Mahua Moitra – while a large screen lit up with her mugshot.

Moitra has been renominated from Krishnanagar, which is among the 35 Lok Sabha seats in the state that has been identified by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for victory. Incidentally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi included Krishnanagar during a brief tour recently that sounded the initiation of poll campaign in West Bengal. And he revised the target to all the seats in the state.

A section of voters and some in the media say that only a famous personality like a film star can upset the TMC’s expectations here. The TMC itself has ousted several veteran politicians elsewhere by pitting them against film stars. BJP spokesperson in Nadia North Sandip Majumdar dismissed all such speculations, saying that the final name will come from the top leadership. 

But till Krishnanagar electorate chooses their new MP, the constituents of one particular assembly segment here will remain “unfortunate”, in the words of a young school teacher.

Parthasarathy Singha Roy looked closely into the paper cup holding his favourite drink – “liquor cha”, or red tea, sans milk, sugar – and then looked up. Letting off a sigh, he lamented, “We’re an unfortunate lot… We don’t have either an MLA or an MP as of today.” The venue was a small tea shop within the premises of the Krishnanagar post office in West Bengal’s Nadia district.

Krishnanagar North assembly constituency is represented by the one-time close confidante and lieutenant of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. But Mukul Roy has since defected to the (BJP) following differences with the top echelons in TMC. Roy was elected from Krishnanagar Uttar in 2021, beating his closest TMC rival by a margin of about 35,000 votes. Following the victory, there were speculations about his future political allegiance. Since almost a year, there were reports of his failing health and for some time, he is out of public life, said to be in seclusion.

This assembly is among the seven segments that comprises Krishnanagar Lok Sabha constituency. The others being Tehatta, Palashipara, Kaliganj, Krishnanagar South, Nakashipara, and Chapra. Till recently, Mahua Moitra of the TMC represented this seat in Parliament. She was expelled from Lok Sabha following the recommendations of an Ethics Committee probe report on cash-for-query charges against her.

That is what Singha Roy, who quit Left politics to actively follow the BJP, was rueing – that the constituency goes unrepresented in state assembly as well as the Parliament.

Krishnanagar, Nadia’s district headquarters, is synonymous with Bengali history and culture. Plassey lies less than 30 km from Krishnanagar where a battle in 1757 proved decisive and paved the way for British rule in India. About 20 km away is Mayapur, the birthplace of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Sri Chaitanya is revered as a special incarnation of Krishna. Every year, more than a million pilgrims visit Mayapur, where the headquarters of ISKCON are situated.

The Rajbari built in Krishnanagar in the 18th century is a prominent place of tourist attraction and a reminder of the past glory. Shantipur has been a seat of Sanskrit learning and literature. Also, ‘taant’ saree weaved here by talented artisans who mostly migrated from erstwhile East Pakistan during the partition of India is very popular.

The land has nurtured several freedom fighters as well as celebrated authors and litterateurs. Many people consider the area a microcosm of Bengal.

But with close to 40 per cent of Krishnanagar’s population being Muslim, local analysts credit the minority community for helping Moitra win the seat. She defeated BJP candidate Kalyan Chaubey by a margin of 63,218 votes in 2019.

She led in Chapra, Kaliganj, Nakashipara, and Palashipara assembly constituencies while Chaubey won Tehatta, Krishnagar Uttar and Krishnagar Dakshin assembly seats. BJP sympathisers like Singha Roy acquiesce that her lead in these segments were so much that it offset the consolidation of BJP votes in the others.

Even before her name was officially announced, Moitra has reportedly been seen visiting several assembly segments which indicated her preparation for another contest. Moitra is said to have started a door-to-door visit projecting personal bonding and “sharing the concerns” of voters in these areas.

However, many of her colleagues exhibit concerns over her ways of functioning. Allegedly, she does not entertain or humour district leaders, MLAs, or the media. Despite the work she has done as an MP in the constituency, TMC top leadership was somewhat annoyed with her way of functioning. She has also been drawing controversies even before the cash-for-questions report. 

In 2019, Moitra indicated what she called “seven early signs of fascism” under Modi’s government. She claimed that the Constitution of India was “under threat”. In 2020, in a burst of rage, she referred to the representatives of the media as “worth two paisa". In 2022, she hurt religious sentiments by making controversial comments on Goddess Kali.

But following her expulsion from Parliament, people in the constituency say that there has been a visible turn in the attitude of TMC’s top leadership, which has given her confidence. Amid the controversies, she has been appointed party president of Nadia-Krishnnagar unit and Rukbanur Rahman as Chairperson. 

Despite adversaries, whether in the district or in Kolkata, Moitra has successfully been able to thwart all attempts at dislodging her, thanks to the party supremo’s blessings, and her own prowess in shrewd political and social manoeuvres.

While ignoring the local party leadership, claim some political workers on ground, she makes it a point to stay in touch with a cross-section of the electorate. They claim that while visiting an assembly segment, she ignores the sitting MLA, and connects directly with the block representative. She can be very friendly with the grassroot worker, but not the local leadership. 

Additionally, she is said to have a very effective election team to conduct research in her constituency and analyse the data. The execution on ground is then coordinated with grassroot workers with great exactness.

Be what it may, Moitra does not care for general image or goodwill. She works where it matters – the topmost, and the grassroots.

Will she return to Parliament? To repeat a cliché – only time will tell.

(Jayanta Bhattacharya is a Delhi-based journalist who’s been covering politics and conflict in South Asia for over three decades. He has covered the war in Afghanistan since 1991. He also writes on farmer and human interest issues.)

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