Jangipur (Murshidabad): Former President Pranab Mukherjee's son Abhijit Mukherjee faces a tough battle in West Bengal's Jangipur as he seeks a hat-trick of wins from the constituency which had sent his father to Parliament twice.
Amid a desperate drive by state's ruling Trinamool Congress for its maiden victory in Jangipur and BJP's growing strength across districts, the fight is going to be harder for Abhijit after the collapse of the seat adjustment talks between the Congress and the Left.
The constituency has been a Congress bastion over the past 15 years, electing its then veteran leader Pranab Mukherjee in 2004 and 2009.
Abhijit, who started as a Congress Legislator from Nalhati in Birbhum district, made his Lok Sabha debut in 2012 by winning a by-election to the Jangipur seat after his father resigned from the house to contest in the presidential polls.
Mukherjee junior, however, won with a slender margin of just 2,536 votes even though the Trinamool was not in fray.
He retained the seat in 2014 defeating CPI-M's Muzaffar Hossain by a slim margin of 8,161 votes. State's ruling Trinamool nominee S.K. Nurul Islam stood third.
This time, Trinamool is going all-out to make a mark in Murshidabad district where it has never won any Lok Sabha seat. Party supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has campaigned heavily in Jangipur for Trinamool nominee Khalilur Rahaman.
In her efforts to woo the minority voters, Banerjee has been repeatedly alleging that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was helping Abhijit to win the election, after his father visited the Sangh's headquarters in Nagpur last year.
Rahaman too described Mukherjee as "non-performer" in terms of undertaking development works in the constituency.
"No doubt, the fight is very tough this time. The CM is directly targeting me and making personal attacks. What does it mean? She is giving a clear message to the administration. I am confident that truth will ultimately triumph," Mukherjee told IANS.
Asked about Banerjee's allegations, he said: "She must remember that she was a cabinet Minister in (Atal Behari) Vajpayee ji's government at the centre. She should first explain her association with the RSS."
BJP candidate Mafuja Khatun, the party's only Muslim woman candidate in the 2019 polls, and CPI (M) nominee Md. Zulfikar Ali rubbished "Mamata's RSS theory" calling it an attempt to consolidate minority voters as over half of the electors in Jangipur is Muslims. But in the same breath they accused the sitting Congress MP of failing to address the plight of bidi workers and the Ganges river erosion.
Both Khatun and Ali also dismissed Banerjee's allegation that CPI (M)-BJP-Congress have formed a nexus to defeat Trinamool.
Jangipur was a CPI-(M) bastion for nearly twenty five years till 2004, except once when the Congress' Mohammad Idris Ali won in 1996.
"We have an ideological difference with Congress even though our party tried to seal a seat adjustment deal to resist communal forces," Zulfikar Ali told IANS.
Khatun claimed winds of change are blowing across the constituency.
"Jangipur's voters have made up their minds to vote for BJP as they have seen Trinamool's goons during (last year's) panchayat elections, CPI-(M)'s inactive politics and the Congress' non-performance."
Jangipur Lok Sabha Constituency, formed prior to the 1967 elections comprises seven Assembly segments - Suti, Jangipur, Raghunathaganj, Sagardighi, Lalgola, Nabagram and Khargram and has over 16 lakh voters.
In the 2016 Assembly elections, the Congress bagged four seats - Suti, Raghunathganj, Lalgola and Khargram, while the Trinamool won Jangipur, Sagardighi and CPI-(M) ANabagram seat.
However, a lot has changed in the Murshidabad district and the constituency over the past three years. Two Congress MLAs - Akhruzzaman of Ragunathganj and Ashish Marjit of Khargram - crossed over to the Trinamool last year.
An aggressive Trinamool Congress has captured the zilla parishad (top tier of the three-rung panchayat system in Bengal) and all municipalities, either through election or through defection.
Dr. SQR Illyas, the president of Welfare Party of India is also contesting from the constituency.
Jangipur goes to the hustings on April 23 in the third phase of the Lok Sabha polls.
The vote count is on May 23.