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Kolkata's 10 most talked about constituencies

By Yajnaseni Chakraborty in Kolkata
May 08, 2006 20:03 IST
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With Elections 2006 reaching a climax in West Bengal, Kolkata is feeling the heat in more ways than one. The time is therefore ripe to take a look at the city's 10 most talked about assembly constituencies, and the issues that their voters are talking about.

Constituency: Ballygunge

Battle between: Rabin Deb (CPI-M), Dibyendu Biswas (Congress), Javed Khan (Trinamool)

Overview: The Left's strongman Rabin Deb was a hair's breadth winner here in 2001, but his battle may have got tougher owing to the challenge posed by Khan, who commands Muslim loyalties, and Muslims form a large chunk of the population here. Most importantly, however, this is where Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee lives and votes, and a CPI-M reversal here would mean a big blow in terms of prestige. A curious conglomeration of swanky apartments and squalid slums, the constituency has also been plagued by healthcare problems, thanks to periodic outbursts of malignant malaria.

Constituency: Bow Bazar

Battle between: Rekha Singh (CPI-M), Sudip Bandopadhyay (Congress), Sultan Ahmed (Trinamool)

Overview: This is a battle between two heavyweights and a new face. Singh, a former student leader and currently a lecturer in a college within the constituency, has been instructed to wrest the seat back from the Trinamool, whose winning candidate in 2001 is the wife of this year's Congress candidate who was once the right hand man of Mamta Banerjee. Complicated? Certainly. However, Singh is well aware of her priorities -- improved water supply, better roads and drainage, and more employment -- to satisfy the area's mixed bag of Bengali, Anglo-Indian, and Chinese voters.

Constituency: Chowringhee

Battle between: Subrata Mukherjee (Congress), Subrata Bakshi (Trinamool), Narayan Jain (CPI-M)

Overview: This has been the domain of Kolkata's high-profile former mayor Subrata Mukherjee. However, a lot of water has flown under the bridge since his tenure, with the man himself returning to the Congress after a bitter parting of ways with Mamta Banerjee and Trinamool. His constituency is home to some of the city's most impressive heritage buildings, and heritage conservation has been high on his agenda.

Constituency: Belgachia East

Battle between: Subhas Chakraborty (Communist Party of India-Marxist), Sujit Bose (Trinamool)

Overview: Though Chakraborty has been winning here since 1977, the state's controversial transport minister makes sure he doesn't take the voters for granted. His closest rival Sujit Bose, ironically, is his former election manager. Like most of the city, the principal issues here are employment, education, healthcare and infrastructure. Thanks to his various public gestures of help for the disadvantaged, a good example being his constant support for disabled swimmer Masudur Rahman Baidya, Chakraborty has acquired an image that has carried him through many a tough battle, notwithstanding his occasional diatribe against the Election Commission.

Constituency: Alipore

Battle between: Tapas Paul (Trinamool), Biplab Chattopadhyay (CPI-M)

Overview: As the battleground for a unique contest between two well-known actors, Alipore – the haunt of the city's rich and famous -- has drawn more than its fair share of attention. The fight has acquired an edge because Paul has played the hero in countless Bengali films, while Chatterjee has played villain in almost an equal number. Inevitably, there have been the usual 'hero-villain' jokes, and the glam element has at times overshadowed real concerns like sanitation, the water and electricity situation, and burgeoning shanties.

Constituency: Dhakuria

Battle between: Sougata Roy (Trinamool), Kshiti Goswami (Revolutionary Socialist Party)

Overview: Plagued by sewage problems and high traffic congestion, the constituency has traditionally favoured the Left Front. However, the recent controversy over the eviction of railway squatters has left both the frontline candidates on a sticky wicket as far as that particular vote bank is concerned.

Constituency: Rashbehari Avenue

Battle between: Mala Roy (Congress), Shobhandeb Chatterjee (Trinamool)

Overview: In a dramatic twist, Roy, yet another former Mamta Banerjee loyalist who has returned to the Congress, has vowed to rid the constituency of its long-standing problem: abysmal drainage. Large parts of Kalighat, which is within the constituency, are regularly flooded by the Ganga at high tide, and Roy accuses her rival Chatterjee, the sitting legislator, of doing precious little.

Constituency: Manicktola

Battle between: Paresh Pal (Congress), Rupa Bagchi (CPI-M)

Overview: The Congress veteran faces a tough challenge from the young Leftist in this slum-dominated constituency. And Bagchi is targeting the slum dwellers as she criticises Pal's inaction in the face of mounting problems with healthcare, sanitation and infrastructure. It has been a high-profile campaign for her, as she has taken on intensive door-to-door campaigning and sought to remind everyone that she has been a councillor in one of the wards under the constituency.

Constituency: Sealdah

Battle between: Somen Mitra (Congress), Prabir Deb (CPI), Dulaleswar Roy (Trinamool)

Overview: This constituency, the smallest in the state in terms of voters, has been Mitra's bastion since the beginning of time, and it will take a lot to unseat him. The Trinamool did have a good try, though, when Mamta Banerjee demanded Mitra's ouster from the constituency as part of a possible pre-poll alliance with the Congress. However, that came to nought, and the proposal has only rendered this three-corner fight spicier.

Constituency: Jorabagan

Battle between: Parimal Biswas (CPI-M), Sajjan Saraff (Congress), Sanjay Bakshi (Trinamool)

Overview: This will be a battle to regain lost ground for Bakshi, who suffered a shock defeat to Sudhangsu Sil of the Left Front in 2001. This year, however, he has to contend against a different opponent, and he must be hoping the area's large percentage of non-Bengali voters will do the trick.

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Yajnaseni Chakraborty in Kolkata