West Bengal, A state experiencing one of the most vigorous pre-election campaigns of all time, is now approaching judgement day.To better understand how Bengal is politically inclined, a couple of pollsters from EtG Research conducted a district wide opinion poll. This opinion poll infers that out of 16 assembly constituencies, AITC has a competitive edge in 13, while in the remaining 3,its neck-and-neck between the BJP and AITC.
After Kolkata, the second smallest district, Howrah, is bounded by the Hooghly River and the North 24 and South 24 Parganas districts on the East, Hooghly district on the North, Midnapore East district on the South. On the West, it shares a border with the Ghatal subdivision of Midnapore West district, and partly by the Arambagh subdivision of Hooghly district to the North-West, and the Tamluk sub-division of Midnapore East district to the south-west. As the district is geographically located close to Kolkata, it possesses several urban settlements, resulting in slums with a diversified population.
Electoral constituencies- The district has 16 assembly constituencies: Sankrail and Uluberia North constituencies are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) candidates. The Howrah LSC is represented by Bally, Howrah Uttar, Howrah Madhya, Shibpur, Howrah Dakshin, Sankrail, Panchla. Uluberia LSC comprises UluberiaPurba, Uluberia Uttar, Uluberia Dakshin, Shyampur, Bagnan, Amta, Udaynarayanpur. Jagatballavpur and Domjur fall under the Srerampur LSC. Prasun Banerjee(Howrah), Sajda Ahmed(Uluberia), Kalyan Banerjee(Srerampur) of TMC won in 2019 with a huge margin against the BJP candidates in their respective constituencies.
BJP- BJP had a lead only in Howrah Uttar while it trailed by just one percent votes in Bally in the year 2019. Howrah district is where the party cadre is divided with the ticket distribution since the recent declaration of candidates led to an upsurge following series of protests by the local members, especially in Amta and Domjur. A course correction may be in the offing, but significant damage has already been done. Laxmi Ratan Shukla quit the TMC and has considerable support not just in Domjur but the entire district, at the same time, the party has reposed its faith and confidence in the heavyweight turncoat Rajiv Banerjee, the third state minister after Adhikari. Rajiv Banerjee was elected to West Bengal Assembly as an MLA of Domjur seat in 2011 and was the state Irrigation and Waterways Minister. For seven years, he held the post and, in 2018, was made the minister in charge of Tribal Affairs and Backwards Classes. He was removed from that post after TMC's poor performance in the tribal areas in 2019 Lok Sabha election and was given the Department of Forest Affairs portfolio. Rajiv Banerjee indicated that one of the primary reasons behind his decision to exit TMC was the lack of “courtesy” of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee when she removed him from the Irrigation Minister's post. He was recently shown black flags and placards with 'traitor' written on them during his door-to-door campaign in Domjur.
On the other hand, Debtanu Bhattacharya, the Hindu Samhati or Hindu Unity president and a vocal critic of the Sangh and its affiliates, has been working at the grassroots to spread Bengali Hindutva in West Bengal. The Hindu Samhati has active grassroots workers who swear by a Hindu homeland in Bengal and have made inroads with community work.Initially, Debtanu had plans to contest independently since he believed that BJP failed to protect Bengali Hindus. Still, the party has successfully roped him in to contest on a BJP ticket in Amta, which otherwise does not have a strong cadre base in the district. While at one hand, the BJP seems to be disintegrating in Howrah as the turmoil over nominations continues with tensions spiralling between “original” (Aadi) and “newcomers” (Navya), the reservation pitch for the four castes will complicate matters, especially the Mahishyas, making the contest more challenging. Moreover, placing Baishali Dalmia (the daughter of Indian cricket administrator and businessman Jagmohan Dalmiya) and Rajiv Banerjee, will carve out interesting political dynamics from their own victory ground.
TMC- Howrah district has been TMC's bastion due to the development done by the government. A significant chunk of the MLAs have been retained while there were replacements in Howrah Uttar, Shibpur, Howrah Dakshin, Sankrail, UluberiaPurba, Jagatballavpur. Dr. Rana Chatterjee will contest from Bally; Gautam Chowdhury from Howrah (North); Manoj Tiwari from Shibpur; Nandita Chowdhury from Howrah (South); Priya Paul from Sankrail; Bidesh Bose from Uluberia (East); Sukanta Paul from Amta; Sitanath Ghosh from Jagatballavpur.
[Also Read: EtG Opinion Poll in West Bengal Alipurduar Dist]
TMC's shrinking voter base can be attributed to the corruption, unfair Panchayat elections, and anti-incumbency against the MLAs. To save itself from the debacle, TMC has given Kalyan Banerjee (the Calcutta High Court lawyer, who has advised Mamata on legal matters since 1984) the responsibility. Hehas been entrusted with saving the diminishing influence of the party and Mamata’s sway in the district. If TMC retains the seat of Domjur and Bally, it will regain its lost confidence. Continuing with the tradition of fielding celebrities from all walks of life, Manoj Tiwary, the cricketer, has been roped into the contest from Shibpur.
The party experienced a significant blow due to Rajib Banerjee’s exit in January 2021, a trusted lieutenant of the TMC supremo. This has resulted in the party being faceless in a significant region of the district. The TMC’s faces in Howrah district were Aroop Roy & Rajib Banerjee. Since Aroop Roy has not been active in the recent past due to his deteriorating health condition, the party was more dependent on Rajib Banerjee. Post his exit, the party organization in Domjurhad been searching for a candidate who could give Rajib Banerjee a run for his money in the upcoming elections. Though the party has a strong organization in the constituency, it lacks a face that everyone accepts. It finally came up with Kalyanendu Ghosh, one of Mamata’s key aides. Another poaching event occurred post the expulsion of Baishali Dalmiya in January 2021 for indulging in anti-party activities. According toreports, the TMC had expelled her for publicly criticizing the party and Prashant Kishor's leadership, TMC’s chief advisor. TMC can only retain its power by banking on the work done by the Councillors and the MLAs who have gained the support since 2011. Mahishyas, will be one of the major factors in making TMC sweep through the district.
The question of identity of the Mahishyas-The Mahisyas have dominated three South Bengal districts, Midnapore, Howrah, and Hooghly. They have had a considerable presence in Nadia and 24 Parganas since the 19th century and certainly since the early 20th century. Numerically, they made up almost half the population of the undivided Midnapore district in the early twentieth century and were the single largest caste in Hooghly and Howrah. The move to seek OBC reservation status for the Mahishyas and three other castes by the Trinamool Congress was a well-timed political gambit. Currently, both TMC and BJP have proposed the same in their manifestos.
Mahajot– INCand the Left have no presence in the district anymore. The invisibility of the cadre and their work has led to the erasure of its influence. Ashit Mishra of INC was the only candidate who won in 2016 Amta assembly election with a margin of 4504 votes against the TMC candidate. The Left is trying to attract the youth by fielding the Students’ Federation of India leader, Dipshita Dhar from the Bally Assembly constituency, who will be contesting against BJP’s Baishali Dalmiya and TMC’s Rana Chatterjee from the constituency which will go to polls in the fourth of eight phases on 10 April. Since Muslims form a sizable part of the population, the ISF might create a stir due to Siddiqui's presence in the neighbouring district, Hooghly, but the rippling effect is yet to be seen.
The district has been the landof communal violence and riots that have taken place due to the significant polarisation. The secular fabric of Bengal seems to be eroded in this district as religious sentiments often escalate to give rise to communal friction. The death of a TMC cadre recently and Dhulagarh riots of 2016 are few of the many instances of political tensions leading to violence within the district. Many citizens are also grappling with issues of cut-money, unavailability of the Amphan funds, improper roads, drainage issues, etc.
General caste (Brahmins, Kayasthas, Mahishyas, Kshatriyas, Maheshwar, Radhis.)
||Majority in most of the ACs.|
||Majority in Panchla, Uluberia Uttar and Dakshin.|
(Sardar, Bagdi, Kewra, Pod, Keora, Suri, Bagdi, Namasudra, Sardar, Bagdi, Poundra)
||Majority in Sankrail and sizable presence across the district.|
||Minimal presence across the district|
(Kapali, Yadav, Sadgope, Yadav, Jogi)
||Presence across the district|
[Also Read: EtG Opinion Poll in West Bengal Nadia Dist]