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Abhishek to forfeit deposit if fair polls are allowed: BJP Diamond Harbour nominee Abhijit Das

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Kolkata, Apr 16 (PTI) The BJP’s Diamond Harbour candidate Abhijit Das, who was severely injured in an assault allegedly by Trinamool Congress supporters six years ago, on Tuesday asserted that his heavyweight TMC rival Abhishek Banerjee will forfeit his deposit if fair polls were allowed.

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Named as the 42nd and last Lok Sabha candidate from Bengal on BJP’s 12th list declared on Tuesday, 54-year-old Das will challenge the TMC’s perceived second-in-command for the second time in a decade.

The constituency, considered a TMC fortress, goes to polls in the seventh and final phase on June 1.

Das claimed the assault left him with a severely injured spinal cord, bundled ligaments and metal plates inserted on a leg, all depicting a near-debilitating condition from the waist down.

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An old-timer yet not-so-prominent face in Bengal’s politics, Das, better known to his followers as Bobby, suffered those injuries in December 2018 when he, along with another party colleague, was dragged out of his car allegedly by TMC-sheltered goons on NH 117 while on his way to Diamond Harbour to attend a party meeting and beaten up mercilessly with bamboo poles, sticks, iron rods and sharp instruments.

Das, then, served as the BJP’s district president of South 24 Parganas under which the Diamond Harbour seat falls.

The leader said he attracted the ruling party’s ire for his “sustained opposition to and exposure of” Banerjee’s “undemocratic and illegal activities” in the region and because he contested against the TMC heavyweight in the 2014 general elections.

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“Abhishek Banerjee embodies TMC’s brutality,” Das told PTI, “If polls are allowed to be held in a fair manner, he will not only lose the elections but will forfeit his poll deposit.” “There’s only one agenda on which voters in Diamond Harbour will exercise their franchise… whether or not to remove the curse of Abhishek Banerjee from the region,” Das said.

A resident of Amtala, not far from the Diamond Harbour suburban tourist and business hub, where he was born, Das prefers calling himself a ‘bhumiputra’ (son of the soil) of the constituency, unlike Banerjee who resides in Kolkata.

Das had contested the Lok Sabha polls on a BJP ticket, first in 2009 and then again in 2014 and on both occasions finished third. In 2009, he managed a paltry 37,542 votes against TMC heavyweight Somen Mitra who had migrated from the Congress.

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Das’ performance five years later against TMC first-timer Abhishek was, however, a lot better where he garnered over two lakh votes, swinging nearly 13 per cent votes from the ruling dispensation.

The BJP dropped Das from the poll fray in 2019 and has now decided to bring him back to take on incumbent Banerjee once more.

“The 2014 polls were a farce since over 400 booths in the seat were captured by the TMC,” Das alleged.

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Asked if the Election Commission’s assurance of a ‘level playing field’ for all parties has boosted confidence this time, Das said, “Going by last year’s panchayat poll experience, I am not sure. Banerjee holds total sway over the police and administration of the district. The EC depends on them to ensure free and fair polls.” Das’ political indoctrination started during his final years in school when he came in contact with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). He became an active worker of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad Parishad (ABVP), the BJP’s student wing, during his days at Surendranath College in north Kolkata. His attachment to the Sangh Parivar only intensified during his later years as a post-graduate and law student.

BJP leaders in Bengal maintained that Abhijit’s long-term RSS-BJP connection and his experience of contesting from Diamond Harbour twice before finally sealed the deal of re-nominating him for the third time for the seat whose face the party’s central election committee took the longest time to decide.

Will the late nomination affect Das' prospects in Diamond Harbour when his prime opponent’s name, a foregone conclusion according to many, was announced over a month ago? “All’s well that ends well,” Abhijit said. “I had already begun making necessary moves in the constituency to prepare the ground for any candidate my party may have selected,” Das, co-incharge of the state BJP’s cell to coordinate with election officials and state administration, stated.

“The job included protesting against thana officials for their partial activities in favour of the Trinamool, offering legal assistance to our workers falsely charged by the police and administration and registering complaints against blatant violations of the Model Code of Conduct which are taking place with impunity. We will not spare an inch against Abhishek in this fight,” Das said. PTI SMY NN

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