As one takes a turn from Hazra Road towards Kalighat in Kolkata, the Bhabanipur assembly constituency starts. It is the most high-profile constituency in the run-up to the all-important bypoll on September 30 as chief minister Mamata Banerjee will contest from the seat in her bid to remain in the chair.
Politicians often call this constituency ‘Mini Bharat’ (Mini India). From Gujaratis to Punjabis to Bengalis to Sindhis, people from different regions of the country live here. More than 40 per cent population of Bhabanipur is non-Bengali, making the constituency unique. Mamata was born on Harish Chatterjee Street in Kalighat and is enrolled as a voter at serial no 333 in part number 209.
Walk through the alleyways of Bhabanipur and you can listen to tales from people who have seen Mamata growing up, playing here, starting student politics from Jogamaya Devi College and then serving the constituency as the MLA of the area for a decade.
Sandip Bakshi, a councillor of one the wards in Bhabanipur, has a story about the chief minister too. “Our previous generation has seen her playing here… we have seen Didi in her days of student politics. She is our ghorer meye (daughter of our house),” Bakshi told News18. He also mentions how the Bhabanipur constituency has Gujarati to Odia population and the CM has always catered to all. “There is Odia Patti (settlement) in ward 70 and Mamata goes there too,” Bakshi added.
Shobhon Dev Chatterjee won the Bhabanipur seat in 2021 with a whopping 57 per cent votes and then resigned paving the way for Mamata to contest. The veteran TMC leader and a close Mamata aide said Bhabanipur is “mini India” as there is “unity in diversity” here. “We enjoy this as every ward has a different demand here. We have one part of Park Street in our constituency and Gujarati population in another ward. The demographic pattern is not the same, and that is why we enjoy it,” Chatterjee said.
Mamata has contested from Bhabanipur twice since 2011, when she won the seat in an assembly bypoll. She did not contest the assembly election then because she was busy overseeing the party’s campaign. In 2016, she won approximately 48 per cent of votes, down from 77.46 per cent in 2011.
The 2019 Lok Sabha elections, however, the data was not so good for the Trinamool Congress. The party led the assembly segment by a thin margin of around 3,000 votes and trailed in the adjacent Rashbehari segment by 5,000 votes. This gives the BJP some hope despite a crushing loss just a few months ago. Jay Prakash Majumdar, BJP state vice-president, said: “That’s her (Mamata) home turf (Bhabanipur) and because they have won with a thumping majority… the fight will be good.”
The political sense in Bhabanipur is that the BJP can project a good impression that can cut into some non-Bengali vote. But the TMC is in an upbeat mode, gunning to win ‘Mini Bharath’.