Berhampore Court railway station was chock-a-block with the home-bound crowd. A jampacked Lalgola local from Kolkata’s Sealdah railway station arrived a few minutes ago on Sunday afternoon.

Overcrowded trains have been coming from Kolkata for the last five days as people, residing in other districts of West Bengal and in other states, are returning to their hometown to cast their votes, Railway officials said.

Baharampur Lok Sabha constituency in Murshidabad district in South Bengal is going to the polls on Monday in the fourth phase of the elections. 

BJP candidate Nirmal Kumar Saha during a door-to-door campaign ahead of Lok Sabha elections in Murshidabad district
| Photo Credit: PTI

“Due to the lack of employment opportunities in Murshidabad district, a large number of people move to other parts of West Bengal and also to other states. This backward region supplies cheap labour across the country. Many of these migrant workers are returning now to exercise their franchise,” said Tausar Ali, a local school teacher.

Outside the Berhampore Court railway station, the Congress erected a large hoarding with a smiling face of the party’s veteran leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.

Chowdhury, the state Congress chief, is seeking re-election from his Baharampur seat. The senior MP has held this Muslim-dominated seat since 1999. The ruling Trinamool Congress in the state has fielded former cricketer Yusuf Pathan, who had played for Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL, from the constituency, which has been a stronghold for Chowdhury. And, for the BJP, well-known local doctor Nirmal Kumar Saha is contesting the seat.

TMC candidate Yusuf Pathan during a roadshow for Lok Sabha elections in Murshidabad district

TMC candidate Yusuf Pathan during a roadshow for Lok Sabha elections in Murshidabad district
| Photo Credit: PTI

“Adhir Chowdhury is facing a tough contest this time. Earlier, he won from this constituency comfortably. But this time, the constituency is witnessing a strong triangular contest. Yusuf Pathan is going to give him a very tough fight,” said Ali.

Ali’s view is seconded by Arun Dey, a bookseller who has a big book store at Gora Bazar in Baharampur city. “Adhir is still a very popular leader here. But Congress’s strength has diminished. You need your party’s strength for elections. At the same time, the strengths of both the TMC and BJP have recently increased,” Dey pointed out.

“In a backward region like this, Mamata Banerjee’s Lakshmir Bhandar is a huge hit. Moreover, in the Muslim-majority areas, Yusuf Pathan will garner a large percentage of minority votes, which will be an unfavourable condition for even a veteran leader like Adhir Chowdhury,” he added.

To his comfort, as an India bloc candidate Adhir is getting powerful support from the CPI (M) and its senior leaders like Mohammed Salim.

Aniket Marjit, a local hotelier, said the BJP has a strong base in the business community here. “The BJP has been steadily increasing its strength. Also, Saha is a popular doctor. That will help the saffron party. Yusuf Pathan is likely to get support of young voters. As a result, Adhir Chowdhury is under pressure in this elections. Finally, he is likely to win, but his vote margin will surely decrease compared to that of the last time,” Marjit added.

Political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty said, “Chowdhury is in a crisis of religion.”

“Trinamool Congress is trying to mobilise the majority of Muslim voters by fielding Pathan and delivering targeted speeches during its election campaigns. And the backlash against this campaign is a likely polarisation of Hindu votes. So, it becomes a challenge for Chowdhury to seek votes from a secular point of view. At the same time, the voters in this constituency are also facing an emotional problem as he has been a popular leader among all communities throughout his political career,” Chakraborty added.

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