Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Does fielding Yusuf Pathan against Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury hints at INDIA bloc infighting?

A few weeks from now, millions in India will exercise their voting rights to choose the country’s next government during the highly anticipated Lok Sabha Elections. Though the dates have not been announced yet, the votes are likely to take place between April and May. While the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party will look to remain in power for a third consecutive term, its opposition, the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA bloc) will look to stop the BJP juggernaut.

Congress-man Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury (left) and TMC's Yusuf Pathan. Photo courtesy: Free Press Journal.
Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury (left) and Yusuf Pathan. Photo courtesy: Free Press Journal.

However, a recent development has hinted at infighting within the multi-party INDIA bloc.

The TMC has fielded cricketer Yusuf Pathan against veteran and loyal Congress old-timer, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, and this move could deal a blow to the INDIA bloc. Even though the Congress has not announced Adhir’s name so far, the five-time MP is certain to get a ticket from Baharampur, West Bengal.

Adhir has been Congress’s torchbearer in the eastern Indian state even as the party is close to becoming a “cipher” in TMC-ruled West Bengal. Adhir’s popularity can be gauged from the fact that he retained the Baharampur seat by an impressive margin of 80,000 votes in 2019, despite the party fighting hard to stay politically relevant in Bengal in the face of a saffron surge.

Adhir’s stronghold In Baharampur

That Adhir has not lost a Lok Sabha election from Baharampur since 1999, reveals his excellent PR and bonding with his vote bank in the minority-dominated, backward district. Adhir has since then bettered his winning margin with every election and is undoubtedly Murshidabad’s most influential politician.

However, with TMC announcing Baroda-based former cricketer Yusuf Pathan, political grapevine believes that it will make it a tough contest for the Congress veteran. Murshidabad has Bengal’s highest Muslim population of 66.28 percent, according to the 2011 census. Also, if TMC intends to woo the Muslim electorate through Pathan, it will certainly serve as a breach of understanding of the INDIA bloc.

Choosing Yusuf Pathan, contrast to Mamata Banerjee’s potshots in the past

Despite being a native of Gujarat, TMC boss Mamata Banerjee has brought Pathan all the way from the western Indian state to contest elections in Bengal. This is in contrast to how she used to take potshots at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and all the BJP leaders who campaigned for the BJP in the 2021 elections for being bohiragoto, or “outsiders”. In the 2021 assembly elections, she had campaigned saying paradropping leaders from elsewhere to campaign would not cut ice with the local masses.

However, Pathan, 41, will certainly have an edge among the young voters of Berhampore especially among the minority section. It will be interesting to see how Congress now plays its cards.

(The article is published under a mutual content partnership arrangement between The Free Press Journal and Connected to India)