The BJP is sanguine about reaping political dividends in the West Bengal assembly elections despite an understanding between the Congress and the Left, due to their larger fight against the ruling TMC, party insiders claim.
On the other hand, the Congress and the Left too are hopeful of a favourable political fallout of the understanding between the two.
“State BJP leaders who visited key political hubs like Malda and Murshidabad feel that the Trinamool will get embroiled in checkmating the coming together of the communists and the Congress in some seats, which may help our party gain ground,” a key BJP leader involved in the campaign strategy in West Bengal told IANS.
Elections to the 294-member West Bengal assembly will be held in multiple phases on April 4, 11, 17, 21, 25 and 30 and May 5.
Reports about seizure of a huge cache of arms and ammunition from sensitive districts like Malda, Murshidabad and Birbhum have forced people to “rethink” their voting pattern, they claim.
In this backdrop, BJP strategists claim “there is an upsurge of nationalism and pro-BJP sentiments” in Malda and other “development-starved” districts in north Bengal.
“All other political forces – the Congress, Left and Trinamool – have failed them. West Bengal’s political scene experienced a shift in 2011 when people made up their mind to vote out the communists. In 2014, due to the Saradha scam and Narendra Modi wave, we did well in the Lok Sabha polls. In fact, after the Burdwan blast in October 2014, the BJP has on a number of occasions put the Trinamool on the backfoot,” said BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya.
Since 2014, party leaders point out that while the Congress and the Left influence has diminished, the BJP has maintained a forward movement.
“Candidates of the Communist Party of India-Marxist lost their deposits in 2014 by-elections to Bashirhat and Chowringhee assembly seats while we won the Bashirhat seat,” a BJP leader pointed out.
The party put up its best ever performance in West Bengal in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls bagging nearly 17 percent votes – a quantum jump from a mere four percent in the 2011 assembly elections.
But it also suffered reverses in the state’s civic polls in 2015, with not even a single civic body win. Even in Kolkata, it could win only seven of the 144 wards in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation.
Meanwhile, sting operations and recovery of firearms in various parts of the state have only added to the ruling Trinamool’s troubles.
The Narad news portal’s sting operation against TMC leaders in West Bengal brought back corruption as a major election issue in the state, which also came under the Election Commission scrutiny for suspected poll-related violence.
“In Murshidabad district, we have a do-or-die battle as it is considered a bastion of state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury,” a key Trinamool leader told IANS admitting that the TMC could win only one of the 12 assembly segments in the area in 2011 despite a Mamata Banerjee wave.
Trinamool has its own set of worries in north Bengal seats where Congress has a crucial vote base. In fact, in order to make a dent in Congress leader Chowdhury’s backyard, Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee has deputed Suvendu Adhikari to organise the campaign strategy in the district.
Adhikari, a vocal youth leader, along with his father and former union minister Sisir Adhikari, had earlier successfully delivered Junglemahal into the Trinamool kitty.
On the other hand, the Congress and Left leaders feel that a “strategic understanding” between the once arch rivals will tilt the scales in about 60 assembly seats across eight districts of north Bengal.
“The Left and the Congress have a huge advantage if our respective party workers can deliver during the campaign, more crucially on the polling day,” says CPI(M) leader Mohammed Salim.