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Who will Take on Abhishek Banerjee from Diamond Harbour? BJP Picks Ex-Mamata Aide, Ex-TMC, an MBA – News18

In his Lok Sabha debut in 2014, Abhishek Banerjee had won the seat by a margin of over 70,000 votes. In the 2019 Lok Sabha Election, he defeated the BJP candidate by 3.20 lakh votes. (PTI File Photo)

The BJP has zeroed in on three candidates from Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha seat in West Bengal, which is the citadel of TMC’s national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee… The BJP might go for the fourth face if Indian Secular Front’s lone MLA Nawshad Siddiqui decides to contest from Diamond Harbour

What Varanasi constituency is to national politics in terms of its VVIP tag, Diamond Harbour is to West Bengal. Trinamool Congress’ (TMC) second in command and nephew of West Bengal Chief Minister Abhishek Banerjee has been representing this seat in South 24 Parganas district, near Kolkata, since 2014.

Over the last 10 years, Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha constituency has attained the repute of being the most high-profile one in West Bengal. In his Lok Sabha debut in 2014, Abhishek Banerjee had won the seat by a margin of over 70,000 votes. In the 2019 Lok Sabha Election, he defeated the BJP candidate by 3.20 lakh votes. In the big stake 2021 assembly polls, all seven segments that fall under Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha seat were won by TMC.

So, who would the BJP field from such a tough seat to challenge TMC’s National General Secretary?

Sources in the BJP suggest that they have shortlisted three names which they will propose during the Bengal core group meeting in Delhi whenever Diamond Harbour is discussed. They include Sonali Guha — a long-standing aide of Mamata Banerjee who made the switch to the BJP ahead of the Bengal assembly polls. Another one is Shanku Deb Panda — a former TMC General Secretary, better known for his rowdy acts while heading the TMC student wing, who joined the BJP in 2019. The third probable contender is Rajarshi Lahiri — an emerging face on Bengali news debates known for his aggressive articulation.

Guha was with Mamata Banerjee since the inception of the TMC. She was an integral part of the drive defending the squatters who were being evicted from the banks of Tolly’s Nullah and Gobindapur railway colony at Banerjee’s instruction. She won a seat that was held by former Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu — Guha and Banerjee stood for each other. But her sudden switch to the BJP before the 2021 Assembly election stunned many. She became dormant ever since the BJP couldn’t come to power. But of late she has been active and the BJP is toying with the idea of pitching a former true blue Mamata confidante against her nephew.

As for Panda, the suggestion to contest from Diamond Harbour came from himself rather than the BJP as a section of the state party leadership is not keen on him. But the party is still keeping him as an option, sources say.

The only person in the list who is originally from the BJP to take on Abhishek Banerjee is Rajarshi Lahiri. An MBA religiously attending Shakhas, Lahiri is a regular ‘Bengali bhadralok’ — a popular face on Bengali prime-time debates who argues with facts and figures rather than indulging in a shouting match. He recently filed a complaint against Mahua Moitra, former member of Lok Sabha, for a purported audio clip where he alleges she had promised “backing of an administration” to secure votes.

A BJP sources on condition of anonymity said, “We have shortlisted these three names. Though there are oppositions to Panda’s name… It’s for the Central Election Committee to take a pick. But if Indian Secular Front (ISF) lone MLA Nawshad Siddiqui decides to fight as well, the leadership may go for a fourth face”.

The Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha seat alone has about 53% Muslim voters. Siddiqui candidature, who has emerged as a Muslim face in Bengal’s polity, can divide the minority votes. The BJP can go for a Hindutva face in that scenario, News18 has learnt.

A BJP source conceded that the party considers Diamond Harbour as a “tough” seat. “We want to give a fight. A triangular fight will make our job a little easier,” the source added.

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