Asansol: As two-time CPI(M) MP Bangsagopal Chowdhury eyes a hat-trick of wins from this Left citadel known for its collieries and industries, he is being challenged among others by two débutantes -TMC`s Dola Sen and singer Babul Supriyo of BJP.
Asansol has returned CPI(M) candidates since 1989 but Trinamool, BJP and Congress, which has fielded youth Congress leader Indrani Mishra, are trying to upset the party`s applecart.
Trinamool is trying to woo over 12.5 lakh electors, of which a considerable number is employed as workers in industries and collieries, by fielding its trade union leader and INTTUC president Sen, also a trusted Mamata Banerjee lieutenant.
Supriyo, who has sung several popular numbers including `Dil ne dil ko pukaara` from "Kaho Na Pyaar Hai", is eyeing to cash in on young voters and also the labour class, many of whom are from the Hindi belt or migrants from the neighbouring Jharkhand and Bihar.
It has not been an easy ride for the 44-year-old singer as he has so far been booked in seven cases, including one under Arms Act for allegedly intimidating Trinamool Congress workers by brandishing fire arms.
Although he claims to be a teetotaller, he has also been accused of entering into a temple in an inebriated condition. In connection with another criminal case for blocking National Highway 60, he has surrendered before a local court and secured a bail.
"The people here have been denied their basic rights like drinking water. It is the most ignored region of the state despite industries here. The absolute incompetency of both the state and the central government will be a deciding factor," Supriyo claimed.
Though the BJP candidate finished with less than six per cent of the votes in the 2009 Lok Sabha election, Supriyo exudes confidence of winning, piggy-backing on the `Modi wave`.
The victory margin of CPI-M`s Chowdhury, who first won the seat in a by-election in 2005 by nearly 2.30 lakh votes, eroded in 2009 to slightly over 72,000. Of the seven Assembly segments under this Lok Sabha constituency, Trinamool has its MLAs in four -Asansol Dakshin, Asansol Uttar, Kulti and Barabani. Three other segments - Pandbeshwar, Ranigunj and Jamuria were with the Left.
Though he admitted that this time the contest will be a tough one, 54-year-old Chowdhury claimed, "I am confident of winning because the Trinamool government has ignored the demands of the people."
The former state minister has assured voters of all-round development in the area including resolution of the drinking water problem.
Industrial pollution is a big issue in the region as people complain that all sources of water get contaminated and even the air they breathe in is full of toxic residues from industries. Not only humans, but also cattle and poultry gets affected because of this, residents say.
Illegal mining in open-cast coal mines spread over Asansol not only degrades the environment but also puts lives at risk with cases of subsidence and underground fire being reported, they say.
A Rs 131-crore drinking water project under JNNURM that hasn`t taken off in Kulti is also a major issue.
"We will address all these issues," promises Trinamool`s Sen.
To boost Sen`s chances, Trinamool supremo Mamata has already addressed two poll meetings in the constituency and the party has fielded actor and Rajya Sabha member Mithun Chakraborty to canvass for its candidate.
The actor has been eulogising Mamata during his campaign with his one-liner "Har Ghar Didi, Baar Baar Didi".
According to political observers, Congress` Mishra, 31, is not regarded as a strong contender and even the party does not have strong organisation in the area.