Mamata Banerjee may not be contesting the Lok Sabha elections, but South Kolkata remains a constituency that's very close to her heart. She is a voter there, and has served as its parliamentarian as many as six times.
With just a week to go for the 2019 elections, the parliamentary constituency is in election mode again. People can be seen assembling at street corners in the evenings, chatting animatedly with their candidates.
On Thursday, housewives and office-goers gathered for a massive rally at Ballygunge to check out the new Trinamool candidate: Mala Roy, a familiar face and a powerful councillor in Kolkata's civic body. She had contested from South Kolkata as a Congress candidate in 2014, but this time she is Didi's soldier.
Ms Roy is confident of her success. "This is a Trinamool stronghold, and no other party will be able to make a mark here. The people of South Kolkata will not betray Mamata. She is charismatic, and she's our candidate in all 42 seats. Her fight is our fight as well," she said.
With many upmarket urban voters among its 17 lakh population, Kolkata South was once a Congress bastion. And now that Mamata Banerjee is not contesting, they hope to win it back with a progressive face.
Their candidate in the running here is Mita Chakraborty, a computer engineer from London who has been brought on board by none other than Congress leader Shashi Tharoor.
"I definitely face a challenge ahead, but let's not forget that Mamata Banerjee had won from this very constituency on a Congress ticket. This constituency still has many old-time Congress voters, and my job will be to bring them back into the fold," said Ms Chakraborty.
CPI(M) candidate Nandini Mukherjee has a lofty dream: getting no other than Mamata Banerjee - a resident of 33 Harish Chatterjee Street - to vote for her party. She, however, hasn't been very successful in her attempts to woo her so far.
"Yesterday I campaigned in Ward no 73, which has Harish Chatterjee Street, and we did not get permission even to walk on that street - leave alone go near her residence. But still, I continue to appeal to her as I appeal to everybody else," Ms Mukherjee said.
The only male contestant in this four-cornered fight hails from an illustrious family. Chandra Kumar Bose, the grand-nephew of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, had taken up the BJP mantle against Mamata Banerjee in the 2016 assembly elections but lost miserably. Can he do any better this time?
Mr Bose believes so. He says it was no fluke that the BJP had fielded Meghalaya governor Tathagata Roy in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, increasing the party's vote share from 4% to a whopping 26%. "The Modi government is not a naamdaarsarkar, it's a kaamdaarsarkar. Mamata is going the Congress way, and the people of South Kolkata don't accept that. Many intellectuals live here, and they prefer talent to dynasty," he said.
South Kolkata votes on May 19, the seventh phase of the elections.
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