Uluberia/Kolkata: As election campaign came to an end on Saturday for the Uluberia Lok Sabha constituency bypoll, political observers feel that Trinamool Congress (TMC), which had won in last election, may not face many difficulties. To ensure that the party did not get trapped in Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s Uttar Pradesh (UP) style polarization plank, TMC roped in Bengali superstar Dev to attract voters from all the communities for Uluberia bypoll. For two-days Dev was seen campaigning and endorsing Sajda Ahmed. These meetings were held in areas where polarization had been observed.
Like in UP, here too, BJP was the only political party to field a Hindu candidate. All parties including CPIM, Congress and TMC have fielded Muslim candidates from Uluberia. Barring TMC, no other party including Congress and CPIM has resorted to inviting star campaigners in Uluberia.
BJP banking on polarization
Uluberia has been a focus area for the BJP since long. With Sultan Ahmed’s demise leading to a bypoll election, BJP was all geared up to make the best out of it. Banking on polarization, it throughout its election campaign in Uluberia, has highlighted – Dhulagarh communal clashes of 2016 and the Tehatta High School’s tension of 2017, where Hindu students were denied the permission to perform Saraswati Puja within the school premises, as earlier the school authorities had barred students from celebrating Nabi Diwas (The Prophet’s birthday).
In 2014, Sultan Ahmed had got over 5.7 lakh votes. While his nearest rival, a CPIM candidate had secured 3.7 lakh votes and BJP had secured the third position with 1.4 lakh votes.
“The communal tension may help BJP get respectable votes. But TMC has a psychological benefit, as it’s the ruling party. Star power too will work in favour of TMC candidate Sajda Ahmed strongly,” said Sourabh Mukherjee, a school teacher in Uluberia, he elaborated, “We can’t deny the fact that Dhulagarh and Tehatta incidence had polarized the environment here. But the government has been alert and has managed to contain the saffron party from further polarizing the environment. So, whatever mileage that it can, BJP is deriving is from those two events.”
Will Polarisation Help?
Many feel that in Bengal, polarisation works in a reverse way. “Unlike UP, where the vote gets split, here it will be uniting the Muslim to vote against BJP. As for the Hindus here, lets, be honest, the hostility has subsided to a great extent. Polarisation can be felt only in select areas,” asserts Mukherjee.
Perhaps BJP understands that and hence has not roped in heavyweights to campaign in Uluberia as it had earlier been propagated. “The only big leader who came to campaign for BJP was Mukul Roy. We had heard of Yogi Adityanath being called for campaigning, but he did not campaign. On the other hand, TMC has been rallying around, calling all heavyweights to stand along with Sajda Ahmed, giving a clear message that the party stands strong with former MP Sultan Ahmed’s widow,” informed, Rahima Khatun, secretary, Nari-O-Sishu Kalyan Kendra, an NGO working in Bauria region of Uluberia district.
On being asked, if polarisation would help BJP eat into TMC’s vote, she laughed and said, “Uluberia has been a stronghold of TMC. They won’t let BJP eat into their pie that easily. We all are smelling polarization of votes. BJP has been able to mobilize a certain section. But Sultan Ahmed had implemented the government policies well here. He made sure that girls got the benefit from Kanyasree, while women from various Self Help Group policies floated by the government. During his lifetime, he was even seen attending the pulse polio campaigns urging families to get their kids vaccinated. Bengali’s don’t vote on communal lines but on work done.” she said.
Dealing with Communalism
Another social activist, Emraul Kayesh, who has been working in Dhulagarh and Uluberia, feels that both the community is learning to live together once again. “We social activists have been working hard to bridge the divide created post-Dhulagarh and Tehatta clashes. Back then we had observed many non-Bengalis from other states adding fuel to the fire. But the people of this area and even the government have learnt from their mistakes. Today we see cars with number plates of other states parked, Hindi-speaking people, frequenting the RSS clubs, hate messages being forwarded via WhatsApp. But all this will not lead to another Dhulagarh like situation, as the government and we social activists are on red alert,” he maintained.
And what the election result would be like? Emraul said, “TMC is the ruling party, and it has always bagged votes here. But this time around I have a feeling that CPI M will perform better than it did last time and will emerge as a close contender. Also, there might be a surge in NOTA too.”
Uluberia will be polling on January 29, along with Naopara, where bypoll is taking place for its assembly seat.