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Lok Sabha elections 2024: 'Khela' reaches phase 2 in West Bengal, 3 seats to go for polls today

The strategically key parliamentary constituencies of Darjeeling, Raiganj and Balurghat will go for polls in the second phase of the Lok Sabha elections on April 26. Raju Bista and Sukanta Majumdar from the BJP along with TMC's Biplab Mitra are the key candidates in the second phase.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Kolkata Updated on: April 26, 2024 0:00 IST
Lok Sabha elections 2024, West Bengal
Image Source : INDIA TV Three high-profile constituencies will vote for the second phase of the Lok Sabha elections.

West Bengal Lok Sabha elections 2024: The second phase of the 18th Lok Sabha elections will be held on Friday (April 26) with at least 88 constituencies in 13 states and Union Territories to go for polls. As such, three high-profile constituencies will witness high-octane contests between the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress.

The strategically key parliamentary constituencies of Darjeeling, Raiganj and Balurghat will undergo voting in the second phase of the Lok Sabha elections, all of them currently held by the BJP. Raju Bista and Sukanta Majumdar are the key candidates in the second phase of the elections in the state, both sitting MPs of Darjeeling and Balurghat respectively.

The 42 constituencies of West Bengal will vote in all seven phases from April 19 to June 1, with the TMC, BJP and a coalition comprising the Left Front and the Indian National Congress as the main competitors. Most of the contest is focused between the ruling TMC and the opposition BJP, who made significant strides in the Lok Sabha seats of West Bengal in 2019 and are hoping to extend their gains in the state.

Which seats will go for polls in Phase 2?

Darjeeling: Darjeeling is a General category seat in north Bengal but comprises a substantial number of voters from Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) and the BJP has won for three consecutive times since 2009. BJP's Raju Bista will face a triangular contest involving TMC's Gopal Lama and INC's Munish Tamang. Bista defeated TMC's Amar Singh Rai by over four lakh votes in 2019.

Raiganj: This is another General category seat in north Bengal, comprising a significant SC population. BJP's Debasree Chaudhuri won the 2019 Lok Sabha elections with over 60,000 votes, defeating TMC's Kanaia Lal Agarwal. In this year's elections, BJP has fielded Kartick Paul against TMC's Krishna Kalyani in Raiganj, with INC's Ali Imran Ramz Victor also in the fray.

Balurghat: State BJP president Sukanta Majumdar will take on TMC's leader and state minister Biplab Mitra in the high-profile contest in Balurghat, reserved for SCs. Once a stronghold of the Left Front's Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), Balurghat was taken by TMC in 2014 and the BJP in 2019. Majumdar defeated TMC's Arpita Ghosh by over 30,000 votes in the previous Lok Sabha elections. RSP's Joydev Kumar Siddhanta will also compete in this year's contest.

What are the main concerns in these constituencies?

The demand for a separate state 'Gorkhaland' by the influential Gorkha community is a prominent issue in Darjeeling that could decide the results. The Darjeeling Hills, known for its tea, has witnessed bouts of violence since the '80s over the demand for a separate state of 'Gorkhaland'. Bista, who is a Gorkha from Manipur, is confident about his victory with the Gorkha National Liberation Front and the Bimal Gurung faction of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha extending support to him.

However, the contest in Darjeeling is unlikely to go as smoothly for the BJP as the TMC has strengthened its organisation in the area over the last few years and fielded Gopal Lama -- a Gorkha candidate backed by the Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM), which runs the semi-autonomous Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) that governs the Hills. Further, the Congress-Left alliance has fielded Munish Tamang who helmed the Bharatiya Gorkha Parisang, and the Hamro Party.

The most formidable challenge that Bista is facing is BJP's Kurseong MLA Bishnu Prasad Sharma contesting as an Independent after he was unhappy with the party for not fielding a 'bhumiputra' for the contest in the Darjeeling constituency. 

Additionally, the BJP is banking on the party's heavyweight Sukanta Majumdar to clinch victory again in Balurghat. Majumdar is considered to be responsible for introducing several initiatives in the constituency, including the improvement and expansion of railway connectivity. The issues of connectivity and healthcare have remained serious issues in this constituency.

On the other hand, TMC is looking to improve on its chances of winning Raiganj, which it has never managed to get its hands on. The constituency has largely been held by the Congress and the CPM before BJP won it in 2019. It is a crucial seat as it lies close to Bihar and shares a border with Bangladesh, and has a significant population of Rajbonshis who are known to be leaning towards the BJP.

How do the parties fare?

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the TMC won 22 seats, while the BJP sprung a major surprise, winning 18 seats. The Congress won the remaining two seats. The BJP dramatically increased their seats from only two in 2014 to 18 in 2019. The BJP particularly established a stronghold in the north Bengal, winning all the three seats going for polls on Friday. The Congress won only two seats and the Left drew a blank.

In the first phase, the Alipurduar, Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri constituencies went to polls on April 19, with at least 37 candidates competing in Phase 1, ten of whom are crorepatis. The voter turnout in these three constituencies averaged 82 per cent.

The BJP is likely to extend its gains by winning 22 seats in 2024, while the TMC may have to settle with 19 seats in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal, as per the India TV-CNX opinion poll. Meanwhile, one seat may go to the Congress party out of a total of 42 seats in the state. TMC may win only two seats in the north Bengal region, according to the poll.

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