Once part of Dihi Panchannagram – a bunch of 55 villages purchased by the East India Company from Mir Jafar in 1758 – Bhabanipur has been an vital chapter when it comes to the ‘Bengal Renaissance’.
Despite being house to primarily Marwaris, Gujaratis, Sikhs and Hindi-speaking communities who first got here right here within the seventeenth century to dabble in yarn, textile, tea, coal, money-lending and meals processing companies, Bhabanipur had its personal Bengali traditions and tradition predominantly practised by the upper-class Bengali Hindus. In these days, it was thought of an elite and secure suburb.
The purpose: it was past the attain of the ‘Bargis’ (a rampaging cavalry of Maratha empire) due to the ‘Maratha Ditch’, which was a couple of 4km moat within the northern facet of Dihi Panchannagram dug by the British to stop the invasion.
The place has seen many struggles and witnessed notable residents like Subhas Chandra Bose, Hemant Kumar, Uttam Kumar, Satyajit Ray, Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, Ashutosh Mukherjee and Syama Prasad Mukherjee.
Since then, plenty of water has flown beneath the bridge and the tone and tenor of Bhabanipur have modified drastically.
The fading id of once-famous personalities amid city sprawl has decreased the satisfaction of Bengal to mere political points on who’s the true custodian of the ‘Bhadralok society’ (civilised society), say observers. And this has been taking place for many years, barring just a few post-Independence years.
However, in recent times there was a paradigm shift in Bengal’s politics and key points like financial system, jobs, trade, training have been overshadowed by slogans corresponding to “Joy Ma Durga” and “Jai Sri Ram”.
Since the near-absolute routing of the Left Front and Narendra Modi’s ascent to energy in 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party has emerged as a pressure to reckon with within the state with the assistance of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
So, veteran journalists who’ve lined politics for years at the moment are stepping into the behavior of creating the rounds of Keshav Bhavan in north Kolkata, a nondescript constructing that homes the Sangh’s regional headquarters. Until a few years in the past, most reporters would have walked previous the constructing with out a second look.
The sudden consideration from the media has not modified issues a lot for the RSS and it continues to run its present the way in which it all the time has, away from the general public eye, barely drawing any consideration in the direction of itself, and serving to the BJP to fill the political vacuum in Bengal.
And when speaking in regards to the Sangh, one can not ignore Bhabanipur, which was as soon as the ‘para’ (neighbourhood) of Jan Sangh founder Syama Prasad Mukherjee.
“When we speak in regards to the paradigm shift in Bengal’s politics, once we discuss slogans like “Joy Ma Durga” and “Jai Sri Ram”, which have been by no means so distinguished in Bengal’s politics, then we’ve got to consider that the seed of polarisation was sown many years in the past by Syama Prasad Mukherjee by means of the Jan Sangh. I don’t need to go into whether or not he was proper or mistaken however the truth is the problem was by no means an agenda in Bengal’s politics till Narendra Modi got here to energy in 2014,” mentioned political skilled Kapil Thakur.
“With the assistance of the RSS, the BJP managed to unfold its wings in Bengal by means of polarisation and it succeeded within the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In the 2021 meeting polls, we’ve got seen the BJP handle to improve its seats. This means individuals in Bengal didn’t outright reject its ideology. The BJP fought the 2021 battle in Bengal on communal traces. But in a broader perspective, the BJP could have dug its personal grave as Muslims (a decisive issue with greater than 30% vote share) moved in the direction of the Trinamool Congress and Mamata stormed again to energy. Now we’ve got a bypoll in Bhabanipur on September 30 and, as per 2016 data, the constituency has almost 22 per cent Muslim voters and this may very well be decisive this time.”
Amid many chapters of Bhabanipur, 30B, Harish Chatterjee Street is certainly one of the crucial influential addresses in Indian politics. This is the place the place Mamata Banerjee lives.
Located proper behind the Adi Ganga (Tolly’s Nullah) and stuffed largely with lower-middle-class shacks with brick partitions, roadside eateries and garages the road main to Kalighat Main Gate has seen many influential leaders visiting ‘Didi’ (Mamata) previously.
Be it Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s go to in July 2000 to metal tycoon Lakshmi Mittal in December 2017, historical past says all of it: how the occupant of this single-story home has continued to draw the bigwigs of the world over a number of many years.
But the Trinamool chief acquired the shock of her life when she misplaced the celebrated Nandigram seat to the BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari within the meeting polls this yr.
This has compelled Mamata to contest the bypoll, which will likely be held on September 30, and the counting of votes will likely be on October 3.
To take on the chief minister, the BJP has fielded advocate Priyanka Tibrewal who was born in Bhabanipur. She joined the BJP in August 2014 after being steered by Babul Supriyo, the singer-turned-BJP politician, and impressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She was the authorized adviser of Supriyo.
In 2015, she contested the Kolkata Municipal Council elections from ward quantity 58 (Entally) as a BJP candidate however misplaced to Trinamool Congress’s Swapan Samaddar.
During her little greater than six years within the BJP, she has dealt with many vital duties, and in August 2020 she was made the vp of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) in West Bengal.
She contested the meeting election this yr from Entally however was defeated by the TMC’s Swarna Kamal Saha by a margin of 58,257 votes.
“I used to be born in Bhabanipur and ‘Bhabanipur nijer meyekei chaaye’ (Bhabanipur needs its personal daughter). For me it’s a combat to serve the individuals and for her (Mamata) it’s a contest to save her chair. Now it’s up to the individuals to resolve,” Tibrewal mentioned.
Mamata has to get elected to the state meeting inside six months of taking cost as chief minister on May 5. But why will individuals vote for her after she not too long ago misplaced to the BJP in Nandigram, some observers have requested.
To discover the reply, one wants to work together with locals on the 109-year-old Sree Hari Mistanna Bhandar at 351/B, Shama Prasad Mukherjee Road, Bakul Bagan in Bhabanipur.
For over a century, this candy store has witnessed quite a few debates over ‘Bengal Renaissance’ with eminent personalities like Uttam Kumar, Satyajit Ray, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, and so forth, would take part whereas having fun with the delectable chholar dal, kochuri and lyangcha.
This reporter too ordered all these things on the store when a milkman arrived and, after gathering his cost, he left casually saying ‘Khela Hobe’ (recreation on), the political slogan of the TMC that has turn out to be an accepted manner of greeting one another within the state.
“It’s true. I’m noticing these days individuals are utilizing ‘Khela Hobe’ as an alternative of claiming ‘good morning’ and ‘good evening’. We have been dwelling in Bhabanipur for many years and we all know the heartbeat of the world higher than anybody else. If you ask me personally, why will individuals waste their vote on a BJP candidate because the TMC is in energy in Bengal? People don’t have any different and, subsequently, individuals will vote for Mamata Banerjee. Similarly, there isn’t a different, presently, to Narendra Modi in nationwide politics. The drawback with the BJP is that they don’t have a robust face in Bengal. In the 2021 meeting polls, they didn’t have a CM face and that went towards them. In Bengal, it is a huge issue. The individuals right here need to see the face of these they need to vote for. If I’m proper, then Mamata Banerjee will win this bypoll by greater than 50,000 votes,” mentioned Subrata Guin, the proprietor of the store.
Prasad Ranjan Das, a descendent of freedom fighter and founding father of Swaraj Party Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, mentioned, “Whoever will do good for the individuals ought to come to energy. The chief ought to convey again the misplaced glory of Bengal.”
Das, who has additionally carried out with American folks singer Pete Seeger and is well-known in Bhabanipur, mentioned, “I’m not going into who is sweet and who’s dangerous. All I’m saying is individuals ought to vote for essentially the most eligible candidate who needs the event of Bengal and who really cares in regards to the individuals of Bengal.”
He grew to become emotional whereas singing and taking part in the guitar. He was buzzing the well-known Seeger tune, “Where have all of the flowers gone”.
An in depth take a look at the political statistics of Bhabanipur revealed that within the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Tathagata Roy was the BJP’s Kolkata South candidate and he stood second to the TMC’s Subrata Bakshi, however he took the lead within the Bhabanipur meeting phase by 184 votes. The constituency has a sizeable BJP help base, primarily comprising Gujaratis, Sikhs and Biharis.
In this yr’s meeting polls, of the overall eight wards in Bhabanipur, the BJP was main in two and was trailing by a small margin in two others.
To perceive the Gujarati sentiments right here, News18 spoke to just a few individuals. One of them was Rajesh Mehta, a meals processing adviser, whose ancestors lived in Bhabanipur for a number of many years earlier than shifting to Sarat Bose Road.
His grandfather, Heera Lal Mehta, migrated to West Bengal and have become the primary Gujarati nominated councillor in 1925 in Kolkata. In 1927, they purchased a sauce firm ‘Army & Navy’ from a Muslim entrepreneur.
During World War 2, the Army & Navy sauce was very talked-about and the Mehtas grew to become well-known in Kolkata.
“We used to dwell on Pollock Street. Our sauce manufacturing unit was additionally there. Then we moved to Chakraberia Road throughout the ‘Great Calcutta Killings’ 1946. We name it the Suhrawardy riots (after Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, who was the prime minister of Bengal in 1946-1947 and prime minister of Pakistan in 1956-1957). Later we had to shut our sauce manufacturing unit and the Army & Navy model is not any extra. I’ve some fond recollections of Bhabanipur and if you happen to ask me Mamata Banerjee will win from the seat. There will likely be a contest as a result of the BJP has a vote financial institution within the space however largely ruling get together candidates win such elections. In this case, too, I feel Didi will win the ballot,” mentioned Rajesh Mehta.
Mamata Banerjee’s Kalighat residence is within the Bhabanipur constituency and it has been a stronghold of the TMC because it got here to energy in West Bengal in 2011.
That yr, Trinamool chief Subrata Bakshi received the seat by almost 50,000 votes, defeating his nearest rival Narayan Prasad Jain of the CPI (M). The TMC had fought the election in alliance with the Congress.
Bakshi then vacated the seat to make manner for Mamata Banerjee, who was an MP, so she might get elected to the state meeting. She received the bypoll, defeating her nearest CPI (M)’s Nandini Mukherjee by a margin of almost 54,000 votes.
On May 21 this yr, TMC MLA Sovandeb Chattopadhyay resigned from the identical seat so Mamata Banerjee can get elected. And the locals are gearing up to give their verdict.
Talking over tea
Another well-liked vacation spot within the space is the 95-year-old Balwant Singh’s Dhaba at 10/B Harish Mukherjee Road, the place one can discover all types of individuals together with political employees of almost each get together within the state. This is the place the place political employees, in addition to others, go to to have their fill of the well-known ‘Kesar Chai’ and ‘Doodh Cola’.
Its current proprietor Lakhwinder Singh, son of Balwant Singh, mentioned, “My place could be very distinctive in some ways. This place is known for its tea and employees from all political events come to get pleasure from it. I feel Mamata Didi will win this bypoll as a result of she has achieved plenty of work for the individuals of this constituency. I received’t say it could be a simple job for the TMC because the BJP additionally has help right here however general Didi has the sting.”
When requested whether or not the Nandigram loss will likely be a hurdle for Mamata Banerjee, he mentioned, “I don’t assume so, as a result of individuals often vote for the ruling get together.”
Col Diptangshu Chowdhury, who has been with each the TMC and BJP, was considerably cryptic when requested in regards to the bypoll. “This is politics of monumental miscalculation, giving mistaken vibes to the individuals of Bengal and Bengalis specifically,” he mentioned. “Bhabanipur is the birthplace of Dr Syama Prasad Mukherjee and the founding father of the get together which makes use of him as a poster boy in Bengal. Legends like Satyajit Ray too belong to this. Why none of those households have ever been approached or have they been rejected? Self-pride, self-respect, self-honour of Bengalis be admired as an alternative of being trampled upon by those that lack each training and erudition. Divisive coverage will lead to destruction of various India.”
In entrance of Basusree Cinema Hall close to Kalighat Metro, a bunch of younger Trinamool employees have been busy arranging the get together posters depicting Mamata Banerjee because the saviour of Bengal with the ‘Khela Hobe’ slogan. One of them recognized himself as Rajat Das. A plumber by occupation, Rajat mentioned, “I’m not an energetic member of the TMC however we strongly consider in Didi. If we face any drawback, she resolves it instantly by means of the neighbourhood membership. Can you present me a single BJP chief right here who we will strategy in case of a disaster? We are poor individuals and if somebody helps us in instances of disaster, it’s sufficient for us.”
Despite such reactions from the individuals, each the TMC and BJP have expressed confidence about successful the Bhabanipur seat.
However, going by the bottom actuality, it is going to be a troublesome job for the BJP to safe the seat, political observers say, as a result of the get together doesn’t appear mentally ready and was towards the polling.
State BJP president Dilip Ghosh, in truth, accused the Election Commission of serving to Mamata Banerjee retain the CM’s publish.
“I would really like to attraction to the individuals to vote for the BJP as a result of they need to perceive that Mamata Banerjee is contesting to save her chair. She is power-hungry,” Ghosh mentioned.
TMC MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy sounded assured of his get together chief’s victory. “The BJP candidate will lose her deposit,” he mentioned. “There will likely be no combat in any respect, as our mass chief Mamata Banerjee will emerge victorious by an enormous margin.”
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