Ratna Chatterjee, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) candidate from Behala Purba and estranged wife of former Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee, is fighting her first election from Parnashree Pally in south Kolkata. She is pitted against BJP’s Paayel Sarkar and CPI (M)’s Samita Har Chowdhury.
TMC’s appeal to the women electorate is not just about campaigns; in the last decade, Banerjee has introduced several policies to benefit women and girls in the state.
Excited about her maiden electoral outing, Chatterjee says,“Since childhood, I have seen a lot of elections. First, it was my parents and then my husband. So, this is not new for me. However, this is my first election as a candidate. (CM) Mamata Banerjee has worked a lot for the people; so as a TMC candidate, I don't have much pressure in reaching out to the people.”
Chatterjee’s ex-husband quit the BJP along with his friend Baishakhi Banerjee, after they were denied nominations by the opposition party. While he was a mayor, he also won the seat for two consecutive terms, in 2011 and 2016. This time around, the BJP chose Payel Sarkar to represent his constituency.
"The party, not the candidate, is more important. But yes, if Sovan had been fielded by the BJP, family issues would have been raked up in the public domain. I have been saved from that,” adds Chatterjee.
On the other hand, BJP’s Sarkar is equally excited about being a part of the Bengal assembly polls. A popular Bengali actress, she has featured in several hits like Bojhena Se Bojhena and Prem Amar.
"I was always interested in politics. Since 2014, I have been following Prime Minister Narendra Modi very closely and the kind of work the BJP has done in other states. This has been very inspiring," she shares with the media.
CPI(M)’s Chowdhury is confident that her party would be able to regain their lost glory.
"You have to understand that Lok Sabha is different from an assembly election. People were voting for a government at the Centre and we, the Left, could not provide an alternative there. So, they left us. But, on the campaign trail we are now witnessing that our supporters are returning and joining us," she adds.
Chowdhury has made their party office in Behala Tram Depot her home since her candidature was announced. The focus of their campaign is to generate employment. With elderly people living a life of solitude in Behala, the objective is to create opportunities in the city so that their children do not have to go abroad or outside the city for jobs.
“We need to create opportunities for the young here, so that they don’t have to leave their homes,” she says, adding that this promise is drawing the youth to her party.
TMC had won the Behala Purba seat in 2016 by bagging around 47 per cent votes, while a left-supported independent candidate had 36 per cent of vote share. BJP came third with around 10 per cent. The situation was different in 2019, when BJP came second.
The seat has a total of 3.07 lakh voters, with women leading the voter share (1.56 lakh). That’s possibly why all three main candidates are women.
"TMC was first to announce my name. I don't know if that is what forced the BJP and CPI(M) to field women candidates. With earlier politics being male-dominated, we are now witnessing a change," adds Chatterjee.
Behala Purba goes to polls on April 10. The votes will be counted along with 293 other constituencies in West Bengal on May 2.
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)