Kolkata: With the 294-member West Bengal Assembly election due in April-May this year, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been sparing no pains to romp home.
West Bengal has been in the crosshairs ever since Narendra Modi and Amit Shah came into power. The reason why they have been targeting the state is one because they want a big footprint in the east.
Ruled by the Left for over 30 years and a decade by TMC, West Bengal is headed for a battle between BJP and TMC this time. The last few weeks have seen important members of the TMC switching over to BJP and party leaders are confident that this number will increase in the coming days.
Since the BJP has not said yet who would be the party’s choice for the top spot in the state cabinet if they form the government, observers feel they will build the campaign in such a way that the focus stays on the star campaigners for the moment.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to visit poll-bound West Bengal on February 22 again to boost the BJP’s electoral campaign.
The prime minister will visit Hooghly District with a public rally at Chinsurah. Chinsurah is under Hooghly Lok Sabha constituency which the BJP bagged in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Singur is located under the constituency.
The BJP sources said Mr Modi had addressed Bengal farmers during his previous visit on February 7 and this time, the Prime Minister will deliver a message on the investment issue in Bengal from a place from where Tata Motors were driven out by the ruling Trinamool Congress.
The party’s Bengal functionaries want Mr Modi and Mr Shah to announce that the party would bring back Tata Motors in Hooghly after wresting power in the state.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday expressed confidence in the Bharatiya Janata Party forming a majority government in West Bengal and said it is high time the Trinamool Congress supremo introspects as to why many leaders are quitting her party.
“I can assure this that in the coming days, a BJP government is going to be formed in West Bengal,” Mr Shah said
Of the five states where Assembly elections are scheduled in 2021, the political battle in West Bengal is likely to become the most fierce, given the BJP’s aggressive bid for power in the State for the first time in history.
Till 2014, BJP had remained a marginal player in Bengal politics contesting the Lok Sabha polls as a junior ally of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in 1998, 1999 and 2004.
However, for Assembly elections, such as in 2001 and 2006, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee preferred the Congress over the BJP as the party’s ally.
In the 2011 Assembly polls too, when the TMC finally unseated the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front in an alliance with the Congress, the BJP ploughed a lonely furrow, securing only 4.1% of the vote share.
It was the ‘Modi wave’ of 2014 that enabled the BJP to achieve a breakthrough of getting 17% of the popular vote in West Bengal and winning two seats without any alliance.
With the vote shares of the TMC and the Congress remaining largely unchanged between 2011 and 2014, it was clear that disgruntled Left voters had started shifting their allegiance towards the BJP. While this development rang alarm bells among many, the CPI(M) leadership both in Kolkata and Delhi remained complacent and unwilling to undertake any corrective action.
With every by-election in West Bengal since 2016, the BJP has gained in vote share at the cost of the Left Front. This vote shift from the Left to the BJP peaked in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, with the BJP winning 18 of the 42 seats in the State.
The BJP’s vote share shot up from about 10% in 2016 to over 40% in 2019, with the Left Front’s vote share collapsing from 27% to 7.5%, the Congress’s vote share declining by nearly 7%, and the TMC’s by about 2%.
This time the Left and the Congress have announced to contest the West Bengal polls together. Both parties are having discussions on seat-sharing talks and have finalised an agreement on 193 seats, out of the total 294. As of now, Congress will contest in 48 seats while the Left will be fielding its candidates on 68.