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Battle of attrition in West Bengal in upcoming Assy election

Thursday, 4 March 2021 (10:19 IST)
Kolkata: As Bengal gears up for the coming Assembly elections, the political face-off between the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and its principal challenger Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to get intense.
The state assembly election in Bengal is a high stake battle between the two parties that are known to leave no stone unturned. Poster war breaks out between BJP and ruling party TMC.
Posing a threat to TMC’s dominance and party supremo Mamata Banerjee’s charisma over 10 years in Bengal politics in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP surfaced as a strong contender against the ruling party.
BJP which has never been in power in the state, has made inroads by winning 18 of the 42 seats in West Bengal in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The saffron parties vote share increased to 40.64 per cent from 10.16 per cent in 2016 when it won only 3 seats.
The result was a morale booster for the party leaders, who now claim that the Saffron party will end Didi's decade long rule in the politically polarised state in Assembly polls.Political observers opined that the upcoming poll battle will be Ms Banerjee’s fight for survival as the saffron camp increased its stake in Bengal’s electoral arena significantly by bagging around 40% vote share, only 3pc behind the ruling party.
A victory in Bengal would be the sweetest of all state victories for the BJP. However, the BJP faces challenges of its own. The state leadership is essentially a congregation of political ‘opportunists’ with absolutely zero ideological positions.Though the Left Front and Congress formed an alliance, the elections are considered as an eyeball-to-eyeball contact between the TMC and the saffron camp.
In 2016's Assembly polls, the Left and Congress came together and bagged 76 seats whereas TMC then bagged 211 seats.Congress and Left parties soon to conclude their seat-sharing procedure through a couple of final rounds of meetings by next week for the upcoming Bengal assembly election confirm party sources.
Earlier, Congress and the Left Front alliance held two rounds of meetings and finalised a seat-sharing agreement for 193 of the total 294 seats in the upcoming Assembly elections.
However, shortly after the election schedule was announced, Ms Banerjee said, "It doesn’t matter in how many phases the elections will be held. We are all set to participate in the game and win it."
Political analysts said it will be a prestigious fight for Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who repeatedly claimed to bag more than 200 seats and a battle for Ms Banerjee’s survival.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP secured the lead in 121 Assembly constituencies out of 294.
Pushed to the wall by the aggressive Hindutva campaign by the BJP, Ms Banerjee and her TMC invoked ''Bengali pride'' to consolidate its support base.
The Mamata Banerjee government launched a massive public outreach in December to ensure the benefits of its 11 flagship welfare programmes reached every household. Christened "Duare Sarkar" (government at doorsteps), the programme covers 11 sectors including employment generation, health, women's empowerment, community development and girl education, among others
The ruling party, for the first time since it came to power in 2011, witnessed a rebellion as several MLAs and an MP, including party heavyweight Mukul Roy and Suvendu Adhikari, crossed over to the BJP.
The TMC, however, put up a brave face and said it was finally free of "traitors". The defection of several TMC leaders has energised the BJP cadres, with Shah seen to drive the party's campaign in the state.
Meanwhile, the Bimal Gurung factor in North Bengal, where the BJP made deep roads, bagging seven of the eight Lok Sabha seats in 2019, witnessed a political churning as the GJM faction led by fugitive Gurkha leader Bimal Gurung quit the BJP-led NDA and joined hands with the TMC.
This election is a litmus test for the saffron camp and the state is likely to witness a tough electoral contest. Since there was a large scale exodus from the TMC to the BJP in the recent past, Mamata's party might collapse with cascading effect if she fails to retain Bengal," said a political scientist.
A carefully curated 8-phase election schedule is what the BJP is counting on. The BJP lacks grassroots presence in the state and can barely compete with the All India Trinamool Congress cadres numerically.
Every household in Bengal is politically aware, if not engaged. But it would be naive to extrapolate parliamentary election results to assembly elections. Voters in Bengal differentiate between the two, therefore, a party must have a sound ground presence to disseminate the party's message and build a recall around it.
The BJP is expected to rely heavily on its cadre strength in the adjoining states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Assam. Mercenaries from these states crossed the borders in the by-polls of 2018, campaigned for the party and returned to their homes. A similar pattern is set to repeat in the upcoming elections, albeit, across all 294 constituencies.
An 8-phase schedule will allow the BJP to judiciously deploy a limited number of workers as per the requirement. Polling begins from the jungle mahal districts of the state, an upcoming stronghold of the BJP.BJP sources said Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to address multiple rallies during the eight-phase polls in the state stretching a little over a month.
Leaders like Amit Shah and party president J P Nadda will also address several meetings as well as other BJP heavyweights like Yogi Adityanath.The BJP launched the ‘Lokkho Sonar Bangla’ campaign recently, seeking citizens’ participation in its manifesto preparation.
As a part of the campaign, the ‘Pariborton Rath’ will be travelling to all 294 constituencies and will collect inputs from citizens apart from highlighting the achievements of the Narendra Modi government on large TV screens.
This particular campaign seems to be straight out of Prashant Kishor’s playbook. Ace political strategist Kishor is the current political aide to Mamata Banerjee.(UNI)

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