Kharagpur: Counting for the Sabang assembly by-election will begin at Kharagpur’s Kendriya Vidyalaya compound at 8am on Sunday. The Election Commission has engaged 20 counting officers to do the job in 15 rounds.
Trinamool Congress, CPM, BJP and Congress are the key players in the fray that have fought independently after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Congress had an alliance in the last two assembly elections — with Trinamool in 2011 and CPM in 2016.
Unlike in most bypolls, where the turnout is comparatively low, Sabang stood out with 85% polling on December 21. According to estimates, 208,470 votes were polled — the total number of voters in Sabang is 245,259.
What makes the bypoll interesting is that the constituency has undergone a major change in political chemistry in the past year. This was triggered by Manas Bhuiyan, a seven-time Congress MLA from Sabang, putting in his papers in the assembly and becoming a Trinamool Rajya Sabha member. His wife Gita is the Trinamool candidate from Sabang this time. Manas claimed a major part of the Congress vote bank in this once-Congress stronghold has shifted to Trinamool along with him.
Congress candidate Chiranjib Bhowmik begs to differ. He maintains that Sabang voters are still with his party. Congress is confident that many Trinamool supporters voted against Manas’ parivar tantra. Even Manas couldn’t deny this. “I have got reports that there has been sabotage in certain booths. Let us wait for the outcome tomorrow,” he said.
Taking the cue, Manas loyalists allegedly beat up Trinamool activist Sankar Shasmal of Sannyasibar village in Balpai on Saturday as he is a loyalist of a rival faction led by Amulya Maity.
No one knows how powerful this “resentment against parivar tantra” is going to be. Or which party will benefit most from resentment within Trinamool ranks.
A section of Sabang voters is backing BJP. With a feeble vote base of 5,000 till 2016, BJP may increase its tally many times as it did in Contai, given its increasing influence in Sabang town and the rural areas. Days before the bypoll, BJP candidate Antara Bhattacharya was banking on spontaneity and the impact of her party’s win in Gujarat. BJP’s tally in the bypoll will determine the fate of the other parties.
Trinamool, however, sees CPM as the main opponent in this constituency. CPM’s support base in Sabang was more or less intact till the last elections despite the BJP having made inroads into the Left vote bank in a number of constituencies.
“Trinamool has targeted us. Our woman activist from Hitaljore in Balpai has been beaten up,” said CPM candidate Rita Mandal Jana.