The Asansol Lok Sabha constituency, where Trinamool Congress’s Moon Moon Sen squared off against incumbent MP Babul Supriyo of the Bharatiya Janata Party, will be closely watched when votes are counted on May 23.
The constituency, one of the two parliamentary seats that the saffron party holds in the state at the moment, was in the news on polling day on April 29 because of violence there. Supriyo’s car was vandalised during a clash outside a polling booth between Trinamool Congress workers and security personnel. Alongside, a first information report was filed against the parliamentarian for allegedly entering a booth and threatening a polling agent and an officer.
Hours later, Moon Moon Sen’s response to the violence spawned a flurry of jokes on social media. Interviewed by reporters, the actor-politician said she was unaware of the clashes. She explained that she had taken a while to get going in the morning because she had been given “bed tea very late”.
The seeming flippancy of the remark contributed to Sen’s image of being a parliamentarian who failed to meet expectations in Bankura, which she had won in 2014 by defeating nine-time Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP Basudeb Acharya by almost one lakh votes.
Babul Supriyo wasted no time highlighting her remarks. He also issued a 17-page document detailing his work, the projects he had funded, and provided an account of how he had spent his MP’s area development fund in five years, reported The New Indian Express.
The Trinamool candidate, on her part, presented a plan for developing and rejuvenating Asansol, a coal mining hub that is now dotted with abandoned factories and industries that have declined over the decades.
A dismal campaign
Moon Moon Sen – daughter of legendary actor Suchitra Sen – has limited appeal in the constituency because of its demographics. A considerable part of the electorate consists of Hindi-speaking voters who have migrated from the neighbouring states of Jharkhand and Bihar. According to IANS, 15% of the more than 16 lakh voters in the constituency are from minority communities and 50% are from non-Bengali communities.
To make matters worse, Sen’s campaign lurched from one blunder to another. At a public meeting in Andal, she petted a baby langur, prompting her rivals to claim she had violated the Wildlife Protection Act, The Telegraph reported. The BJP, ironically, accused the Trinamool candidate of attempting to entice Hindu voters a day after Hanuman Jayanti.
The month before, at a party meeting in Amritnagar in the Asansol South Assembly segment, Moon Moon Sen had described the Bihari population in the state as “good police informers”, The Statesman reported.
The BJP has increased in strength in Asansol over the years. In 2014, this rising tide allowed Supriyo to end the Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s 25-year hold over the seat. The BJP leader received 37% of the votes, with his nearest Trinamool Congress rival Dola Sen getting 30.58% of the vote. The CPI(M)’s Bansa Gopal Chowdhury received only 22.39% of the vote share.
The 2016 Assembly elections revived the hopes of the non-BJP parties as the Trinamool Congress won five of the Assembly segments in Asansol, and the CPI(M), which had teamed up with the Congress, bagged the other two.
However, communal flare-up in the region during Ram Navami celebrations last year indicated that Hindutva outfits and its supporters were still a potent force in the region. This coupled with the Trinamool’s poor campaign this year might just tip the balance in the BJP’s favour.