West Bengal assembly bypolls: Key parties field candidates, will turncoats win?

By-election to four assembly constituencies will be conducted on July 10

West Bengal political party flags AIFF President and BJP candidate from Maniktala Kalyan Chaubey | Salil Bera

With the results of the 18th Lok Sabha polls still fresh, West Bengal is gearing up for by-elections in four assembly constituencies on July  10. The BJP declared its candidates on Monday, three days after the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Left Front fielded their faces for the polls in Maniktala, Raiganj, Ranaghat-Dakshin and Bagdah. 

Elections have become necessary in Raiganj and Ranaghat-Dakshin after the seats were vacated by sitting BJP MLAs Krishna Kalyani and Mukut Mani Adhikari respectively; both switched to the Trinamool Congress (TMC) ahead of the 2024 parliamentary polls. Kalyani and Adhikari unsuccessfully contested the general elections on TMC tickets from Raiganj and Ranaghat Lok Sabha constituencies. 

Similarly, incumbent BJP MLA from Bagdah Biswajit Das left the saffron party before the general elections. He resigned as a legislator as the TMC nominated him from the Bangaon parliamentary seat. He too lost to the BJP candidate. Meanwhile, Maniktala has been without a legislator for over two years following the death of TMC incumbent Sadhan Pande in 2022. 

Assembly constituencies Sitai, Haroa, Naihati and Medinipur have also been left vacant after their legislators successfully contested the Lok Sabha polls on TMC  tickets. However, by-elections to these seats have not been declared. 

Trinamool has refielded Kalyani from Raiganj and Adhikari from Ranaghat-Dakshin, a seat with significant Matua population in Nadia. The BJP was leading in both the assembly segments in the 2024 general elections. 

Adhikari, 34, is the Nadia unit chief of All India Matua Mahasangha, a leading socio-religious organisation of the Matua community divided between TMC and BJP factions. The BJP side is led by Shantanu Thakur, Bangaon MP and Union Minister of State for Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways. 

The TMC faction is led by the party’s Rajya Sabha MP Mamata Bala Thakur. West Bengal’s ruling party has nominated her daughter Madhuparna Thakur from North 24 Parganas’ Bagdah, another Matua-dominated assembly segment. Trinamool trailed by over 20,000 votes in Bagdah, part of the Bangaon Lok Sabha, in the recently concluded parliamentary polls. 

In Maniktala, Trinamool has fielded Supti Pande, wife of late MLA Sadhan Pande. She will be up against the BJP’s Kalyan Chaubey. A footballer-turned-politician, Chaubey has donned both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal shirts in his playing days. 

The former team India goalkeeper, currently the AIFF (All India Football Federation) chief, was the BJP’s candidate in the 2021 West Bengal Assembly elections as well. He had filed an ‘election petition’ at the Calcutta High Court for the delay in bypolls in Maniktala. Recently, the legal complication was resolved. 

The saffron party has also gone with Matua faces in Bagdah and Ranaghat-Dakshin. In Bagdah, the BJP’s bet is on Binay Kumar Biswas, while it has nominated Manoj Kumar Biswas in Ranaghat-Dakshin. Manas Kumar Ghosh will contest from Raiganj on the BJP ticket. 

Meanwhile, the Left Front has also announced candidates for three constituencies, Maniktala, Ranaghat-Dakshin and Bagdah, leaving Raiganj for alliance partner Congress. The CPI(M) has fielded Kolkata district committee member Rajib Majumder from Maniktala and Arindam Biswas from Ranaghat-Dakshin. Bagdah will be contested by All India Forward Bloc’s Gouraditya Biswas. 

However, a letter to Left Front chairman Biman Bose by Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, threatening to part ways if Bagdah is also not left for Congress has put the future of the Left-Congress alliance in doubt. The West Bengal Congress chief has mentioned that his party would be forced to field candidates in all four constituencies if AIFB doesn’t withdraw. 

As part of the alliance, Congress contested Bagdah in the 2016 and 2021 assembly polls and even in the 2024 general elections, the Left supported the party’s candidate in Bangaon. 

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