Shatrughan Sinha to take on BJP’s S Ahluwalia from West Bengal’s Asansol constituency

The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal has chosen to wield the star power of Shatrughan Sinha against Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Surinderjeet Singh Ahluwalia from Asansol which will go to polls on Monday.

The Bihari Babu of the Indian film industry, Shatrughan Sinha joined TMC in 2022 after a brief stint in the Congress. Sinha quit the BJP in 2019 claiming that the party has become a “one-man show”.
“The magic of Mamta’s personality is speaking everywhere. The work Mamta Banerjee has done for her people and the state, no CM has done that ever for their people. And even the Prime Minister of the country hasn’t done anything like this,” Sinha had said while filing his nomination last month.
Sinha had earlier won from Bihar’s Patna Sahib constituency on BJP ticket in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Babul Supriyo, a popular singer, who was then with the BJP won the Asansol Lok Sabha seat. However, the seat fell vacant when Supriyo joined the TMC. Sinha who was fielded by the TMC in the by-polls won the election winning 56.62 per cent of polls.
Supriyo won by a margin of 1,97,637 votes against Trinamool’s Moon Moon Sen, another filmstar fielded by the ruling party in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. In 2014, Supriyo wrested the constituency from the hold of the Trinamool, winning by a margin of 70,480 votes against Dola Sen.
Incidentally, Asansol was one of the only two constituencies won by the BJP in West Bengal in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The other constituency, Darjeeling, was won by Ahluwalia who is now up in arms against Sinha in Asansol.
Asansol is the headquarters of the Paschim Bardhaman district, which borders Jharkhand. It is the second-largest city in West Bengal after the state capital and has a large population of voters coming from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh who do not speak Bengali. Hence fielding a candidate having Bihari ties is seen by parties as a lucrative option.
Ahluwalia, the sitting MP from Bardhaman Durgapur Lok Sabha constituency, was not BJP’s first choice as the candidate from Asansol. The BJP had earlier chosen Bhojpuri singer Pawan Singh against the glitz of Shatrughan Sinha. However, Singh chose not to contest from Asansol after facing backlash from the TMC over the obscene portrayal of women in his music videos and films.
Following the announcement of Singh as the BJP candidate from Asansol, TMC minister Babul Supriyo who represented Asansol twice while he was with the BJP said, “I have nothing against him or his place or following as an artiste. However, in his music videos and films, Bengali women are portrayed in a certain manner that might offend the sensibilities of voters. How can the BJP field such a person from Asansol? It is clear he was asked to post about his withdrawal from the race. However, it is hard to believe that the BJP fielded him from Asansol without running a necessary background check and gathering details about him. It also seems implausible that they put on the ticket without seeking his consent.”
However, Pawan Singh chose to contest as an Independent candidate from Bihar’s Karakat days after pulling out of the Lok Sabha race.
Speaking about the problems in Asansol, Ahluwalia said that the paramount concern in his constituency is the availability of clean drinking water as people in villages are forced to drink filtered sewage water.
“The biggest issue here is potable water. PM Modi gave a call for ‘har ghar nal se jal’ and the people of UP benefited from this scheme but it was not implemented here in West Bengal. People in villages are forced to drink filtered sewage water. The state government did not do anything to provide clean water to the people,” Ahluwalia said speaking to ANI on Tuesday.
The BJP leader said that the money allotted for the PM Awas Yojana was taken by one family from the Trinamool Congress and those who are poor did not receive it.
“Money allotted for the PM Awas Yojana was taken by members of one family in Trinamool and they built a large palace. PM Modi had promised to give concrete houses to every poor. But no one received it. After enquiry, it was found out that those who have scooters, motorcycles and proper houses have received its benefit,” Ahluwalia said.
Ahluwalia served as Minister of State for Urban Affairs and Employment (Department of Urban Employment and Poverty Alleviation) and Parliamentary Affairs in the P V Narasimha Rao cabinet from September 15, 1995, to May 16, 1996. He was also deputy opposition leader in the Rajya Sabha from June 2010 to May 2012.From 1986 to 2012, he was a Rajya Sabha MP representing Bihar and Jharkhand. In 1999, he joined the BJP, and in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, he won from the Darjeeling constituency with the active support of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) which is fighting the polls in the state in partnership with the Congress, as part of the opposition INDIA bloc, has fielded Jahanara Khan from Asansol.
West Bengal, which sends 42 MPs to Parliament, is voting in all seven phases. Polling for six Lok Sabha seats in Bengal was held across the first three phases on April 19, April 26, and May 7.
Polling for the remaining parliamentary seats will be held on May 13, May 20, May 25, and June 1. The counting of votes has been scheduled for June 4.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the TMC won 34 seats in the state, while the BJP had to settle for 2 seats. The CPI (M) won 2 seats, while the Congress bagged 4.
However, the BJP came up with a much-improved showing in the 2019 polls, winning 18 seats against the TMC’s 22. The Congress’s tally dropped to just 2 seats, while the Left scored a blank.
The 2024 Lok Sabha elections are being held in seven phases, running from April 19 to June 1.-ANI

Dr. Tulip Duncan

Dr. Tulip Duncan

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