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Bengal: Congress Wins Sagardighi Bypoll, Gets First MLA in Current Assembly

Backed by the Left Front, Congress’s Bayron Biswas polled 47% votes, defeating TMC by a handsome margin.
Elected congress candidate(in the middle) byron biswas after his win in Sagardighi bypolls. Photo by anirban dey .

Elected congress candidate(in the middle) byron biswas after his win in Sagardighi bypolls. Photo by anirban dey . 

Kolkata: Pushing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) into third position, Congress candidate Bayron Biswas defeated Trinamool Congress (TMC) candidate Debasish Banerjee in Sagardighi Bypolls by a margin of 22,986 votes on Thursday. BJP Candidate Dilip Saha secured only 25,815 votes (13.94%) while Debasish Banerjee of TMC got 64,681(34.94%) votes. Biswas, who was backed by the  Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left front, polled 87,667 votes (47.35% ) votes.

The Sagardighi bye-election, ahead of the upcoming panchayat elections, was seen as a “prestige” fight for the ruling TMC. It was a litmus test for the party’s booth-level management and election strategy amidst rising allegations of corruption against TMC ministers and leaders.

The bypoll also saw Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee taking personal interest to ensure victory in the seat TMC’s Abhishek Banerjee, along with dozens of ministers, had divided the entire Assembly segment into zones to promote the party candidate    

The elections were necessitated the death of state minister TMC MLA Subrata Saha on December 29, 2022.

 The BJP had nominated Dilip Saha, an ex-TMC candidate from Nabagram in the 2016 elections, as its candidate, while the Indian National Congress (INC) nominated a young businessman, Bayron Biswas, as its candidate.  

After the elections were declared, West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee (WBPCC) President, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury (Murhsidabad is his home district) wrote a letter to Left Front chairman Biman Bose seeking support for the party’s candidate. To defeat both TMC and BJP, Mohd Salim, CPI(M) state secretary, and Left Front leaders of Murshidabad district announced their support for Biswas. 

 The campaign process was a high-tension one. All India TMC general secretary Abhishek Banerjee, top leaders such as Firhad Hakim, BJP state president Sukanta Majumder, and Suvendu Adhikary campaigned for their party candidates.

 While on the other side, Chowdhury and Salim, DYFI state secretary Minakshi Mukherjee, and CPI(M) leader Pulin Bihari Baske also addressed several rallies and public meetings in Sagardighi.

 The seat was tough for Congress and CPI(M). In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the BJP emerged as the second party in Sagardighi, which falls under the Jangipur parliamentary constituency. From Sagardighi, BJP candidate Mafuja Khatun (in the 2019 Lok Sabha election) secured 41,967 votes while Congress candidate Abhijit Mukherjee got 40,626 votes. TMC candidate Khalilur Rahaman got 75,374 votes, while the CPI(M) candidate Md Zulfikar Ali got only 12,291 votes.  

 In the 2021 Assembly elections, the Left Front and Congress jointly fought the polls but failed to make a mark. TMC’s Saha got 95,189 (51.00%) votes and defeated Mafuja Khatun of BJP who secured 44,983 votes (24%) while Left Front-backed INC candidate SKM Hasanuzzaman, who secured 36,344votes (19%) and stood a distant third.

 On February 19 this year, Abhishek Banerjee, in a public meeting, said: “If in one booth, TMC loses, the booth will be marked as booth of Mir Jafar.” He firmly sent the message that booth leaders would be treated as “traitors”.

 However, since the beginning of the campaign, TMC leaders were facing rejection at the ground level. However, public meetings by Congress leader Chowdhury, CPI(M)’s Salim, and CPI(M) Murshidabad district secretary Zamir Molla got a good response from the public. During the campaign, Sagardighi Police also arrested the Congress leader of Patkeldanga Village, Saidur Rahman. Later, he got bail from Kolkata High Court.  Congress and CPI(M) had then claimed that police were working as agents of the ruling party –TMC.

The Election Commission removed Sagardighi OC Abhijit Sarkar from his office just 72 hours before the election. People in many villages alleged that TMC leaders were violating the Model Code of Conduct.

 On February 27, 2023, Sagardighi witnessed peaceful polling.  The counting, held in Sagardighi Kamada Kinkar Smriti Mahavidyalaya, saw the Congress candidate leading from the very first round and won with a handsome margin.

 Later, Chowdhury thanked the people of Sagardighi for this victory. “This is not just a win of the Congress party only, CPI(M) leaders also campaigned for Bayron. Cadres of both Congress and CPI(M) worked hand in hand to ensure this win. People of Sagardighi have voted for democracy,” he said. 

 CPI(M) leader Zamir Molla said: “With this election starts the fall of TMC in West Bengal. The people of Sagardighi fought for democracy and secularism. The result is a clear indication of the fact that BJP is not an alternative to TMC. Only a secular democratic force can defeat BJP. We will resort to democracy in West Bengal.”

 Hours after the results were out, Salim and party leader Sujan Chakraborty held a press conference in Kolkata. They said: “People in the state are trying to come out of corruption and usage of muscle power in the state. People of the state are now understanding that those who are bifurcating the state on the basis of religion and caste and various other identities need to be defeated.  It is our stand to assimilate the non-BJP, and non-TMC votes under one roof. People have today respected that thought of ours,”

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