Clash of two narratives in Rajganj

Clash of two narratives in Rajganj
Highlights

The seat saw a photo finish as CPM’s Mohd Salim defeated Deepa Dasmunsi of Congress, in the 2014 polls.

Bengal's city Raiganj shows a typical example of a clash of two narratives — the newer one that plays on religious identity and the older rich-versus-poor conflict centered on governance. BJP is relying on the new narrative to merge the major Hindu population, especially after the party's impressive show in the 2018 rural elections, when it outperformed Congress and the Left Front in this North Dinajpur district seat.

The seat saw a photo finish as CPM's Mohd Salim defeated Deepa Dasmunsi of Congress, in the 2014 polls. With the Left and Congress dwindling to reach a deal this time, BJP is looking out for advances. Flanked by Bihar to the west and Dinajpur district of Bangladesh to the east, Raiganj, the pocket borough of former Congress leader Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, is set to witness a four-cornered contest this year.

In 2014, CPM and Congress together had a little less than 30% of the vote share but CPM had lost almost 10% and Congress 22% from their earlier outing. A big chunk went to Trinamool (17% increase in vote share from 2009) and BJP (14%).

BJP hopes the 46% minority vote will be divided among Trinamool, Congress and CPM. In the 2018 rural polls, BJP had won as many as 371 panchayat seats, leaving Congress and CPM trailing with just 77 and 98, respectively.

The condition started shifting after 2016, when religious identity overtook the poor-versus-rich narrative, in north Bengal. First, there were the communal riots in January in Malda's Kaliachak, around 100km from Raiganj. Then comes a standoff at Darivit in Islampur in 2018, with BJP blaming the administration for the death of two people in police firing during a scuffle over teacher recruitment.

Trinamool's nominee for Raiganj is former Congress leader and Islampur MLA Kanaia Lal Agarwal. CPM's Salim plans to take up farm distress and local issues. Deepa Dasmunsi has to prevent Congress votes going to the Trinamool candidate.

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