Till some months ago political experts used to say that no other force other than infighting in Trinamool Congress would give Shyampukur Assembly seat to the opposition as a reward.
But like an experienced doctor, the sitting MLA and minister for women and social welfare, Sashi Panja diagnosed the disease and her prescription has worked well in curing the problem.
In 2011, Sashi Panja defeated Jibankrishna Saha by a margin 27,036 votes. In 2014 Lok Sabha election, Trinamool candidate Sudip Bandopadhyay got 44, 575 votes from this segment. Rupa Bagchi of CPI(M) got 30, 141 votes while Somen Mitra got 6102 votes.
Shyampukur was a strong Forward Bloc base. Hemanta Bose was an undisputed leader of the area till he was murdered by criminals in the 1970s. Nalini Guha, an associate of Netaji was elected from the seat. With the passage of time, Forward Bloc lost its base and failed to recruit the youth. The voters first shifted to Congress and later moved to TMC.
Sashi Panja’s success lies in developing intimate contact with people. And this she has learnt from her father in law Ajit Panja.
Ajit Panja knew the area better than the back of his right hand and had contacts with local clubs, organisations and people. Following his footsteps the sitting MLA built up her own vote bank. In any social function Sashi Panja was the first person to be present.
Till recently infighting became a major issue in the area. Khokon Das who had joined TMC from CPI(M) has enormous control in Ward 10. He was opposing Sashi Panja directly in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) polls.
Even Mamata Banerjee at a meeting held in her residence instructed all the factions to work together for Sashi Panja.
This problem has been ironed out and Das is likely to back the sitting MLA to retain her seat with a bigger margin.
Over the past four and a half years several development works has been carried out in the area. The removal of garbage, beautification of the parks and up-gradation of street lights are some of the areas where the development is perceptible.
Forward Block candidate Piyali Saha’s biggest problem is the eroding support base. Moreover, she is not likely to get even 50 per cent of the Congress votes and a sizable per cent will go to TMC.
Sashi Panja’s position is sound and we will have to wait till May 19 to see whether she has increased her margin or not.