Lok Sabha polls: Family feuds turn into political battles in West Bengal | Kolkata - Hindustan Times

Lok Sabha polls: Family feuds turn into political battles in West Bengal

May 19, 2024 02:59 PM IST

West Bengal is witnessing some fierce family feuds turning into pitched electoral battles in this Lok Sabha election

From the rivalry between a divorced couple to a showdown between a father and his former son-in-law or a soured relation between an uncle and his nephew – West Bengal is witnessing some fierce family feuds turning into pitched electoral battles in this Lok Sabha elections.

TMC candidate Kalyan Banerjee during an election campaign for the Lok Sabha polls at Serampore in Hooghly on Saturday. (PTI)
TMC candidate Kalyan Banerjee during an election campaign for the Lok Sabha polls at Serampore in Hooghly on Saturday. (PTI)

“What political identity has he got? Nothing. The BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) gave him a ticket to contest the Lok Sabha election because he is my former son-in-law. Why was he not given a ticket in any other constituency other than Serampore. What credibility has he got? Is he connected to the people of my constituency in any way – politically or socially? No,” said Kalyan Banerjee, three-time Trinamool Congress (TMC) member of Parliament (MP) and a senior advocate of Calcutta high court.

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The TMC MP and the party’s candidate from Serampore Lok Sabha seat was speaking about Kabir Shankar Bose, his former son-in-law. Bose has been fielded against Banerjee by the BJP from Serampore, which goes into poll in the fifth phase on May 20.

The family feud has taken an ugly shape with Banerjee often hitting out against Bose, a practising Supreme Court lawyer over his past relation. Banerjee’s daughter and Bose divorced in 2017.

“She (Banerjee’s daughter) had to face a tough challenge in her life. She got the courage and today she has overcome it. I pray to God, no daughter faces such challenges,” Banerjee said while addressing a road rally in the constituency earlier this month.

On several occasions while campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections, Banerjee, a close aide of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, has been highlighting the hardships his daughter had to face.

“Everyone has his or her own past. Without a past no one has a present and without a present there is no future. I cannot wipe away the past. But I am living in the present. What is the present? It is just a matter of days before Narendra Modi becomes the Prime Minister again. Those who want to live in the past, let them do so. This is a political battle,” said Bose.

For Sujata Mondal, the TMC’s candidate from Bishnupur Lok Sabha seat in Bankura district, the challenge is even tougher as she is contesting against her divorced husband Saumitra Khan. Bishnupur goes to polls in the sixth phase on May 25.

“It is going to be like an agni pariksha for me. But I am confident that I will win by a huge margin,” Mondal told media persons during an interaction recently.

Saumitra Khan, a former Congress MLA, switched over to the TMC in 2013. He first won the Bishnupur seat on a TMC ticket in 2014. The couple got married in 2016. Khan, however, sided with the BJP in January 2019 and the party fielded him as a candidate in the Lok Sabha polls in the same year from Bishnupur.

Mondal shot to limelight during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls when she single-handedly managed the campaign of Khan. The BJP MP won by a margin of more than 78,000 votes.

The relation between the two soured when Mondal joined the TMC ahead of the 2021 state assembly polls and was given a ticket to contest from Arambagh. She, however, lost.

Khan announced their separation and sought a divorce. The couple got legally separated in 2022. Mondal won the panchayat polls in 2023 and is presently the karmadakshya (fisheries) of Bankura zilla parishad.

The divorced couple has often been seen engaging in a war-of-words during campaigning in the run-up to this year’s Lok Sabha polls. Bishnupur goes to poll on May 25 during the sixth phase.

“I have sought the blessings of Baba Ekteshwar to save Bishnupur from a degraded human being. The last time I came here in 2019 I got his blessings. The BJP candidate is nothing more than a Asura (demon),” she recently told media persons.

“She has already slayed me. She should at least forgive the people of Bishnupur. Earlier I used to burn. Now the TMC leaders of Bishnupur are burning. Don’t play with human beings. The people of Bishnupur won’t give her that chance,” said Khan, a two-time MP from Bishnupur.

In Barrackpore, an industrial belt in North 24 Parganas, BJP has fielded strongman and sitting MP Arjun Singh. Even though TMC has named Partha Bhowmick, state minister, as its candidate, the party has made Sourav Singh, nephew of Arjun Singh as Bhowmick’s chief polling agent.

This has turned the family rivalry into a political one with Sourav now vigorously campaigning against his uncle. Barrackpore too goes into polls in the sixth phase on May 25.

Sourav along with two other relatives of Arjun Singh – Sunil Singh (Arjun Singh’s brother-in-law) and his son Aditya - joined the TMC in February 2022. Sourav was also the former chairman of the Bhatpara civic body.

It was a blow for the BJP ahead of the 2022 municipal polls as all three were candidates in the Bhatpara civic body election. They withdrew their nominations to join the TMC. Bhowmick was present at the joining program.

“I have never seen a big turncoat like Arjun Singh. The man who doesn’t recognise his own nephew for power, how will he serve the people of his constituency?” Sourav said.

In November 2023, Vicky Yadav, a close aide of Sourav Singh, was murdered outside his house at Jagatdal. Police had arrested Arjun’s Singh nephew Pappu Singh. The incident had triggered a bitter factional row within the TMC in North 24 Parganas.

“I have severed all ties with him,” said Arjun Singh, who couldn’t be contacted, recently told the media.

This is, however, not the first time that elections have kicked off a political battle between members of a family. In every election, be it assembly polls, panchayat, municipal or Lok Sabha, relatives are often pitted against each other in an intense contest.

In 2019, the BJP had fielded Shantanu Thakur, grandson of Binapani Devi (the matriarch of the Matua community and popular known as Boro Ma) against his aunt and sitting TMC MP Mamata Bala Thakur.

In Malda, Pranab Bhattacharya, a retired schoolteacher, was fielded by the Congress in Englishbazar municipality against his younger brother Pranay, an income tax lawyer, who fought with a BJP ticket.

In the 2018 panchayat polls, Bhognarayan Das, a retired schoolteacher, contested on a TMC ticket against his son Amal, who was a BJP candidate in Alipurduar.

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