March 19, 2023

WB: Sagardighi Bypolls: People’s Intent is Clear

Subinoy Moulik

AS expected, the extent of people’s discontent with the misrule of authoritarian Trinamool regime was borne out in the outcome of Sagardighi by-election, occasioned by the death of sitting minister Subrata Saha in December last year. The TMC had been winning from Sagardighi in Murshidabad since 2011, three times in a row, and the by poll was considered a cakewalk, for in 2021, Saha had won by a massive margin of over 50,000 votes defeating his BJP rival Mafuza Khatun. The Left Front supported Congress candidate SKM Hasanuzzaman came third. However, the 2023 election result came as a big setback for TMC ahead of panchayat polls. Left Front-supported Congress candidate Byron Biswas defeated Trinamool Congress candidate Debashis Banerjee by an impressive margin of 22,986 votes. Debashis Banerjee polled  64,681 votes while Biswas polled 87,667 votes. The BJP had fielded Dilip Saha from the seat who was relegated to the distant third position. Notably, after announcing   the candidature of Byron Biswas for this constituency, state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury had written a letter seeking the support of the Left Front. Murshidabad district Left Front decided to support the Congress candidate. The joint campaign went on right from the beginning.

Desperate to win the polls, the Trinamool Congress did not spare any effort to manipulate the voters’ choice. The party deployed outsiders   in booth after booth. Trinamool strongmen – councillors, MLAs and ministers – were found directing the 'voting process'.  All India TMC general secretary Abhishek Banerjee, minister Firhad Hakim, BJP state president Sukanta Majumder,   Subhendu Adhikary campaigned for their party candidates.   CPI(M) and Congress activists continued to face persecution. Under political pressure, the police   arrested Saidur Rahman, the Congress leader of Patkeldanga. However, he approached the High Court and got bail. The Election Commission removed the OC of Sagardighi police station three days before the polls. The Trinamool leaders rushed from village to village on the night before the polls. However, the polls showed that people could not be misled. On February 27,   Sagardighi witnessed peaceful polling.  The counting, on March 2, saw the Congress candidate leading from the very first round and winning by a handsome margin. This clear verdict of the people of Sagardighi has crushed the false idea created by the corporate media for a long time that there is no option in Bengal but to choose between Trinamool and BJP.


A deeper analysis of the TMC-BJP defeat reveals significant trends.  The Left-Congress vote share has increased from about 19.45 per cent to about 47.35 per cent in Sagardighi in less than two years. The TMC's vote share has fallen from 50.95 per cent to 34.94 per cent, while that of the BJP has fallen from 24.08 per cent to 13.94 per cent. So, Left-Congress has pulled almost 16 per cent from the TMC, and about 10 per cent from the BJP. Sagardighi has a predominantly Muslim population.   Given that the panchayat elections are around the corner, the Left-Congress win in Sagardighi is bound to increase stress levels in the headquarters of both the TMC and the Bengal BJP.

This is the first time since the Trinamool government came to power in West Bengal in 2011 that a non-BJP non-TMC candidate has won a by-election to an assembly constituency. In the 2021 assembly elections, the electoral coalition formed by the Left Front, Congress and ISF could win just a single seat. ISF candidate Nausad Siddiqui won in Bhangar assembly constituency. Since then, the only opposition MLA in the state assembly, Nausad Siddiqui, is being constantly harassed by the Trinamool government. From January this year he was implicated in several police cases and kept in custody for 41 days and was finally released on March 4. In such a situation, the decisive defeat of the Trinamool and the retreat of the BJP will undoubtedly create new enthusiasm for the mass movement in Bengal.

Quite significantly,  in 10 of the 11 gram panchayats included in this assembly segment, the Left Front-backed Congress candidate has gone ahead of the Trinamool candidate, and in another, his votes are equal with the Trinamool candidate. Even in Barala gram panchayat where the Trinamool candidate Debashis Banerjee has his own house, he has lost. The Trinamool candidate got 6539 votes in this panchayat while Left Front supported Congress candidate Byron Biswas got 7652 votes. Byron Biswas has taken a lead in this panchayat by a margin of 1113 votes. This is how the entire people of Sagardighi responded. And this is not surprising. There is no work in the Bengal villages; people are living in extreme poverty. The people's anger at the limitless unbridled corruption and loot being carried out by Trinamool leaders at the panchayat level has found expression in this verdict.  

State Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and CPI(M) state secretary Mohammad Salim congratulated the people of Sagardighi for this important victory. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, "The results of this poll indicate that if the panchayat polls are conducted impartially, Trinamool Congress will suffer electoral trouncing not only in Murshidabad district but in the whole of Bengal". Mohammad Salim said, “The people have registered their verdict against   all-pervasive corruption. Sagardighi is showing the way. We will prevent vote looting in panchayat. People have realised that by creating communal divisions, BJP-Trinamool are furthering their own interests.”


Mohammad Salim also said, here we Left have decided to support the Congress candidate so that the anti BJP-Trinamool votes   do not get divided. Not only the people of Sagardighi, but the whole people of Bengal also want to get rid of this regime that is burdened with criminality and corruption. That desire was reflected in the election result. People had wanted to get rid of this misrule from the beginning, but Mamata Banerjee delayed the process by bringing in the BJP to fight the Left so that the BJP’s policy of creating Hindu-Muslim divide by spreading communal incitement could help the TMC retain power. Ultimately the people of the state have understood that those who are doing politics in the name of caste, religion, community, language or provincialism are actually looting the country and the state. We will unite all non-BJP/Trinamool forces in this fight for the people. People have given support to that idea through their verdict.

Salim said, now the person elected from Sagardighi has to play a role inside and outside the assembly by duly honouring the people's verdict. The Left Front leadership, Congress leadership, even those who are not in the Left Front, are not with the Congress – those parties and individuals, groups and organisations who are against the BJP and the Trinamool must move forward with this idea. Only then can we unite the people. Not only in terms of elections, but also in the fight against those who are robbing people's livelihood, the people of this state will be successful. BJP can be defeated and Trinamool can also be driven out of power. Left Front and the CPI(M) has always called for this unity. This result of Sagardighi will be far-reaching in the future politics of West Bengal.