The Howrah Lok Sabha by-election to be held in the shadow of Saradha chitfund scam will be a test case for the Mamata Banerjee government's popularity and for the Congress and the Communist Party of India-Marxist to gauge their standing in West Bengal prior to the 2014 general election.
The Trinamool Congress has fielded former India football captain Prasun Banerjee, the Congress a lawyer Sanatan Mukherjee and CPM Dip Bhattacherjee, a former party Howrah district secretary, while the BJP has opted out following instructions from the party president Rajnath Singh for the June 2 bypoll.
The winner of the by-poll is also likely to have a bearing in the panchayat polls due to be held in three phases in early July.
In 1999, when the TMC contested the poll in tie-up with the BJP, the TMC won the seat by a meagre 6,535 votes or 0.64 per cent votes.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP bagged 37,723 votes in the seat, which was 3.8 per cent of the total votes polled.
The BJP received 4.5 per cent of votes in seven assembly segments of the Lok Sabha seat in 2011 when the TMC won in 15 of the 16 seats and Congress in one, with the Left Front defeated in all constituencies.
Analysts felt that the BJP’s withdrawal from the Howrah bypoll could prove to be an electoral gain for Mamata Banerjee’s party and triggering speculation that the party wanted to keep its door ajar for TMC in 2014.
Bengal BJP chief Rahul Sinha had said that Rajnath Singh had called him up to convey the central leadership’s decision.