With four assembly constituencies in West Bengal going to by-polls on Saturday amid tight security and maintenance of Covid protocols, all eyes will be on Dinhata as Trinamool Congress (TMC) heavyweight Udayan Guha is looking to reclaim the seat, which the BJP had snatched from him by a whisker in the April elections.
Mr Guha, a two-time MLA, had bagged the seat for Forward Bloc in 2011 and the TMC in 2016.
He is up against BJP’s Ashok Mandal, who had defeated him in 2006 as a TMC candidate.
Bypoll to Dinhata was necessitated following the resignation of Nisith Pramanik, now Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, as he chose to retain his Lok Sabha membership.
Mr Pramanik had defeated Guha by a narrow margin of 57 votes in the assembly elections.
The other three seats, where by-elections will be held on October 30 are Santipur in Nadia district, Khardah in North 24 Parganas and Gosaba in South 24 Parganas.
In Santipur, too, BJP MP Jagannath Sarkar resigned from the assembly, thus calling for a bypoll.
The saffron party has now fielded Brajakishore Goswami from the seat.
Mr Goswami has crossed swords with TMC nominee Niranjan Biswas.
Bypolls to Dinhata and Santipur are prestige battles for the saffron party, which is currently grappling with exodus of MLAs and senior leaders.
The other two seats, however, fell vacant following the death of the winning candidates.
State minister Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, who resigned from Bhabanipur to facilitate Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s election to the Assembly, is fighting from Khardah, where TMC’s Kajal Sinha died due to COVID-19, just days after polls to the seat were held.
Mr Chattopadhyay has locked horns with BJP candidate Joy Saha in Khardah.
TMC’s Gosaba seat winner Jayanta Naskar, too, succumbed to the viral infection.
The ruling party in Bengal has fielded Subrata Mondal from the seat to take on BJP’s Palash Raha.
The Election Commission has ordered strict maintenance of COVID-19 guidelines during the by-elections to the four seats, where extensive security arrangements have also been made for peaceful polling.
It has deployed 27 companies of central armed forces in Dinhata, 22 in Santipur, 20 in Khardah and 23 in Gosaba, an official said.
The poll panel had earlier disallowed big rallies as part of political campaigns, in view of the COVID-19 situation, and the parties concentrated on door-to-door visits and street-corner meetings.
Apart from TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee, veteran MP Sougata Ray and transport minister Firhad Hakim had campaigned for their party candidates.
They highlighted the TMC government’s achievements over the past decade, while criticising the alleged communal agenda of the saffron party and the relentless rise in fuel prices.
Similarly, BJP leaders, including the party’s state president Sukanta Majumdar, leader of opposition in the Assembly Suvendu Adhikari and national vice president Dilip Ghosh, accused the TMC of practising vote bank politics by choosing to maintain “silence” over the attack on Hindus in Bangladesh.