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Dhupguri bypoll in North Bengal puts INDIA opposition bloc’s unity to test

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KOLKATA, Sept 3: The INDIA opposition bloc faces a crucial test in the upcoming bypoll in Dhupguri
assembly segment as its important constituents, TMC and Congress-CPI(M) alliance, fight it out
against each other to wrest the rural seat in North Bengal from the BJP.

The bypoll on September 5 is also a litmus test for all three political outfits, with the BJP hoping to
check its erosion in its vote share and retain the seat, the TMC aiming to wrest the tribal-dominated
assembly segment and the CPI(M)-Congress alliance hoping to regain its traditional seat.
The bypoll was necessitated following the death of its sitting BJP MLA Bishu Pada Ray earlier this
year.
Dotted by tea gardens, the seat in Jalpaiguri district is an agricultural settlement with a considerable
population of Rajbanshis and Matua communities, who voted for the saffron camp in the 2021
assembly polls. The constituency also has around 15 per cent minority population.
CPI(M) state secretary Mohammed Salim and Congress president Adhir Rajan Chowdhury held a
massive rally in Dhupguri, hitting out at both the TMC and the BJP, as their central leadership was
holding brainstorming session with the TMC and other anti-BJP parties at the third INDIA opposition
meet to discuss the strategy to defeat the saffron camp in 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Although the CPI(M), Congress and TMC have dubbed it as local elections, with no bearings on
opposition unity efforts, the BJP has gone hammer and tongs pointing at the frictions in the INDIA
camp.
“It is a local election and has nothing to do with the INDIA opposition bloc. At the local level, we are
fighting our own battle,” state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said.
CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said the fight in Bengal is against both the communal BJP and the
misrule of the TMC, and the battle in Dhupguri, a seat which had been a bastion of the Left from
1977-2011, is no exception.
The CPI(M) has fielded Ishwar Chandra Roy, a teacher by profession, from the seat.
The TMC, which had repeatedly accused the CPI(M) and Congress of helping the BJP in West Bengal,
has negated saffron camp’s allegations of disunity in the INDIA bloc.
“What is happening in Dhupguri has no bearing on the efforts of the INDIA opposition bloc at the
national level. But it is true that in Bengal, at times, the role of the CPI(M) and Congress is helping
the BJP. We are steadfast in our fight against the BJP,” TMC MP Santanu Sen said.
The TMC has pulled all the stops to wrest back the seat, which it had won twice since 2011, and has
promised to make Dhupguri a “sub-division by the end of this year.”
TMC’s national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee has been leading the campaign in the area.
The TMC has also fielded a teacher, Nirmal Chandra Roy, from this seat.
BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar said even before the opposition bloc has taken off, cracks are
visible in it.
“Dhupguri is a classic example of how brittle this opposition front is; even before it started, cracks
are visible. Now, the people will decide accordingly,” he said.
The BJP, which has been struggling to keep its flock together in West Bengal following defections of
its MLAs and rapidly declining vote share, is putting all efforts to retain the seat and change the
norm of losing all the byelections since its defeat in the 2021 assembly polls.
The BJP had won the seat in the last assembly polls bagging 45.65 per cent of the votes, whereas the
TMC had bagged 43.5 per cent.
The saffron camp this time has fielded Tapasi Roy, the widow of a CRPF jawan, who died fighting
terrorists in Kashmir a few years ago.
Leader of the opposition Suvendu Adhikari, who has been leading the BJP’s campaign from the front,
has appealed to people to vote against the misrule and corruption of the TMC.
Political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty said the bypoll has interesting facets as it has been seen how
the Left-Congress, which has been regaining its ground after its bypoll victory in Sagardighi earlier
this year, manages to retain its upward rise given the fact that they are sharing dais with the TMC at
the national level.
“The Left-Congress was gaining as anti-TMC votes shifted from the BJP to them. Now, after the
opposition INDIA bloc meeting where it thrice shared the dais with the TMC, it has to be seen how
they manage those contradictions at the ground level,” he said.
The counting of votes will take place on September 8. (PTI)

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