By Pradipta Tapadar
Barrackpore (WB), May 4 (PTI) Arjun Singh is known for his local connections and strong booth management skills but sitting TMC MP Dinesh Trivedi dismisses the chances of his former chief election manager in their fight for supremacy in this seat, saying he is a non-factor in this poll.
Having a 40 per cent Hindi-speaking population, Barrackpore is one of the key seats where the Modi-Mamata factor has turned the contest into a prestige fight for both the TMC and the BJP.
With Trivedi eyeing a consecutive third term from the seat, which goes to polls in the fifth phase on May 6, Singh, who defected to the BJP recently, is hoping to upset the former Union minister's applecart.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his election campaign in West Bengal had claimed that 40 TMC MLAs were in touch with him, prompting Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to accuse him of engaging in horse trading and demanding for cancellation of his candidature.
"After this statement and counter statement, the election in this seat is more about whether the BJP and Modi will be able to make a penetration in Bengal or Mamata Banerjee will be stop them and become the next prime minister," says a senior TMC leader of North 24 Parganas district.
Even wall graffiti mention a Modi vs Mamata fight.
"It is a fight to make Didi (Mamata Banerjee) prime minister and stop horse trading of MLAs", says a wall writing here whereas another writing goes: "Vote to re-elect Modi as PM and end the misrule of Mamata".
Barrackpore, situated in the north western part of Kolkata, has about 40 per cent Hindi-speaking population, which had migrated from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in the past few decades. They are likely to be a deciding factor in the polls.
Though Singh is a four-time former TMC MLA from the Bhatpara assembly constituency and is said to have considerable influence among the Hindi-speaking population of the area, Trivedi asserts his rival is a non-factor in the elections as he has lost connection with the masses.
"He was never a factor in this seat. His tall claims that it was his organisational skills that helped TMC win the seat would fall flat in the Lok Sabha polls. He will get to know his political stature once the results are out on May 23," Trivedi, who was railway minister from July 2011 to March 2012, told PTI.
Singh, who was the main election manager of Trivedi since 2009, had switched over to the BJP in March, after he was denied the Lok Sabha ticket from this seat.
Once also known to be close to former CPI (M) MP from Barrackpore Tarit Baran Topdar, Singh was considered a game-changer for the TMC in several elections, from panchayat polls to parliamentary battles, due to his local connections and strong booth management skills.
"The people of this seat will vote for BJP and Modiji. Trivedi has been a complete failure as an MP. People will oust him," Singh told PTI.
At present, all the seven assembly seats in the Lok Sabha seat are held by the TMC.
There is also a minority-dominated Amdanga assembly segment and the TMC eyeing these votes.
Apart from Trivedi and Singh, the contest has also become a prestige issue for BJP leader Mukul Roy whose son Subhranshu Roy is a TMC MLA from Bijpur assembly seat which falls under the Barrackpore parliamentary constituency.
The onus on Roy is to ensure victory of Singh from Barrackpore, whereas for Subhranshu it is a fight to prove his loyalty to the party.
Roy, once considered number two in the TMC, had switched over to the BJP in 2017. Many also consider him to be the BJP's key organisational man in engineering defections in the TMC.
"It's has nothing to do with father-son relationship. I can ensure you that TMC would win from this assembly segment with a big margin," Subhranshu says.
In 2014, Bijpur gave the TMC the highest lead among the all seven assembly segments in the constituency.
But with the fast changing political equations in the area, both the TMC and the BJP have kept the cards close to their chest.
The Barrackpore Lok Sabha seat, which has been a CPI(M) stronghold since early sixties, had elected Trivedi for the first time in 2009.
Also in the fray are Gargi Chatterjee of the CPI(M) and Mohammed Alam of Congress.
Trivedi won the seat in 2014 by defeating his nearest rival of the CPI(M) by a margin of over two lakh votes. The constituency at present has 14,33, 276 voters. PTI PNT ZMN