‘Homeboy’ Ahluwalia against ‘Shotgun’ Sinha in Asansol

Published : Apr 11, 2024 19:41 IST - 4 MINS READ

BJP MP Surendrajeet Singh (right) Ahluwalia during the Monsoon session of Parliament on July 21, 2023.

BJP MP Surendrajeet Singh (right) Ahluwalia during the Monsoon session of Parliament on July 21, 2023. | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

The BJP finally finds a candidate for West Bengal’s Asansol, a month after its first choice withdrew from the contest.

More than a month after the Bharatiya Janata Party’s first choice for the Asansol Lok Sabha seat, Bhojpuri singer Pawan Singh, opted out of the contest, the saffron party finally settled on a candidate—veteran leader and two-time MP, Surendrajeet Singh Ahluwalia. Pawan Singh’s withdrawal and the lingering uncertainty over who will be the party’s candidate, has caused the BJP considerable embarrassment in the constituency that was, till recently, was considered one its strongholds. Asansol will go to the polls in the fourth phase of the elections on May 13.

Pawan Singh quit the race soon after his name was featured in the BJP’s first list of candidates, in the face of a strong attack launched against him by the Trinamool Congress. Referring to his songs and films, the ruling party in West Bengal accused him of misogyny and hurting the sentiment of Bengali women.

Also Read | West Bengal: Will CAA tip the scales?

Announcing his withdrawal on social media, Singh had written: “I express my heartfelt gratitude to the top leadership of BJP. The party trusted me and declared me as the candidate from West Bengal’s Asansol but due to some reason, I will not be able to contest the elections from Asansol.” To the further embarrassment of the BJP, the Trinamool claimed credit for forcing Singh out of the election. “The indomitable spirit and power of the people of West Bengal,” Trinamool general secretary Abhishek Banerjee triumphantly posted on X, after Singh’s announcement. It was only on the BJP’s fourth list that a candidate for Asansol was announced.

Rude wake-up call in 2021

The BJP had won the Asansol seat consecutively in 2014 and 2019, with Babul Supriyo as the candidate. In September 2021, Supriyo, a most vocal critic of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, left the BJP and joined the Trinamool after being removed from his ministerial post at the Centre. The following year, in the byelection to the Asansol constituency, the Trinamool fielded former BJP Union Minister Shatrughan Sinha, who won by a massive mandate securing more than 56 per cent of the votes.

For the BJP, who for so long thought that it could rely on the support of the Hindi-speaking population of West Bengal, it was a rude wake-up call, for around 30 per cent of the population of Asansol are Hindi-speaking. Where in 2019 it had a lead in six of the seven Assembly segments in Asansol, in the 2021 Assembly election, it could win only two seats—Kulti and Asansol Dakshin.

Agnimitra Paul, the BJP MLA from Asansol Dakshin feels that the situation has changed in recent times and that the BJP has grown stronger organisationally and has managed to recover much of the political ground it had lost. “Originally, the Asansol seat was a pro-BJP seat. The byelections that took place after the long-drawn post-election violence; people were afraid; and we were also organisationally weaker. But this time there is a strong pro-BJP sentiment in the region… Shatrughan Sinha might be a good actor, [but] he did not do anything for the people in the region. Times have changed and the voters now hold their MPs accountable. We are absolutely certain that S.S. Ahluwalia will win,” Paul told Frontline.

Also Read | Former spouses turn foes in a bitter political battle for Bengal’s Bishnupur

Trinamool, on the other hand, has claimed that Ahluwalia has been conspicuous by his absence in his own constituency. Narendranath Chakraborty, the Trinamool MLA from Pandabeswar (which falls under the Asansol Lok Sabha seat), and party president of Paschim Bardhaman district, said: “In our campaigns we will put before the people what work Ahluwalia has done in his own constituency of Bardhaman-Durgapur in the last five years. That itself will make things clear to the voters.”

Party of ‘outsiders’?

The choice of Ahluwalia can also be interpreted as a clever political move by the BJP to counter Trinamool’s oft-repeated allegation that it is a party of “outsiders”. Ahluwalia, in fact, claims to originally hail from Asansol, and being the sitting MP from the neighbouring Bardhaman-Durgapur Parliament seat, he is well known in the region. In Asansol, with Ahluwalia as a candidate, the BJP can, for a change, turn the tables on the Trinamool and project its own candidate as a “home boy” against an “outsider”.

After getting his ticket, Ahluwalia said, “Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and J.P. Nadda have made me a candidate in my birthplace, Asansol. I can feel the pull of the people and the soil.” For Ahluwalia, this is the third Lok Sabha constituency in West Bengal that he will be contesting from. In 2014, he won from the Darjeeling constituency; and in 2019, from the Bardhaman-Durgapur seat.

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment