Bengal polls: For first time in three decades, Didi moves out of her den

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A man walks past a poster of Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata on Friday. (AFP photo)

KOLKATA: For the last three decades,

Mamata Banerjee

has never fought an election away from Bhowanipore. From 1991-2011, she was a Kolkata (South) MP, which includes

Bhowanipore

, and from 2011 she has been Bhowanipore’s MLA. The poll bond was severed on Friday.
“If need be I will again contest from here. But whether I contest from here or not, Bhowanipore will always be within my grasp,” she said. State power minister Sovandeb Chattopadhyay will now fill in for Banerjee in Bhowanipore, to which the CM added, “I will always be here and keep a watch.”
It was also three decades back in 1991 that she was attacked at the Hazra crossing while leading a

Congress rally

, and her head fractured. “I had campaigned with a fractured head, injured. People had reposed their faith in me always. I fought and won eight elections from here,” Banerjee said.

The decision not to contest from Bhowanipore was to blunt BJP barbs at her asking her to declare which seat she will represent.
Endorsing Chattopadhyay, Banerjee said, “His home is here. He played in a local club here.”
But the Bhowanipore that has hand-held Banerjee — a gritty local girl — and helped her grow in political stature from a Union minister to the CM of

Bengal

, is fast changing. The over 2-lakh-strong electorate now has around a 60% non-Bengali population. The changing demographics is also coinciding with a changing vote pattern since the 2014

Lok Sabha

elections, when it started embracing BJP.
In 2014, for the first time in decades, a different political script panned out in Bhowanipore —

Trinamool Congress

trailed a BJP candidate by 185 votes. In the three-year phase from 2011-2014, BJP’s votes had swelled from 5,078 to 47,465. This lead was erased by

TMC

in all subsequent polls — the 2015 Kolkata Municipal Corporation elections, the 2016 assembly polls and the 2019 LS contest — but the party’s plummeting win-margins indicated that the changing trend wasn’t a one-off.
Incidentally, even in the elections Banerjee contested, her vote-share dropped. In the 2011 bypolls, she had got around 77% of votes. In 2016, this fell to around 48%. In the 2019 LS polls, TMC led by a meagre 3,168 votes.
The dipping vote-share over the past decade has also dragged in an element of uncertainty in this old south Kolkata neighbourhood.

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