As the assembly polls approach Bengal, things are getting out of hand for the ruling TMC with one or the other factor going against the party. The BJP has high stakes in the Eastern state and is fighting tooth and nail to set its foot in Mamata’s bastion.
The conch for the Bengal polls was blown in 2019 itself with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat preparing the ground for party workers and BJP cadres in the state. Since then, not only Mohan Bhagwat but also Amit Shah and party chief JP Nadda has made multiple visits to the state. The BJP has cadres across the state and members from the TMC are switching to the party as well.
Suvendu Adhikari’s defection from TMC to the BJP might be the one that hurts the TMC the most.
Though the party has made inroads with members across the state, the focus of the BJP is narrowed to North Bengal where the saffron party is eyeing the crucial SC and ST votes in Bankura and Jangalmahal.
Bankura has 12 Assembly seats in the 294 seat West Bengal assembly. It is the same reason why BJP made inroads in the last Lok Sabha polls in 2019 capturing 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats. According to the Election Commission (EC) statistic, the vote percentage of the BJP has increased significantly to 20 percent in the Jangalmahal districts. Similarly, in the 2018 Panchayat election, the BJP increased its vote share by 27 percent in Jangalmahal districts which was once a bastion of the left as TMC suffered a massive setback at Jhargram, Purulia, and in Bankura.
As the TMC faces strong opposition from BJP, its leaders are breaking away from the party to join the saffron brigade. After Arindam Bhattacharya and Shuvendu Adhikari, former minister Rajib Banerjee has joined BJP. Adhikari’s joining the saffron fold has the potential to upset the Trinamul applecart as his family holds influence on up to 35 Assembly seats. If the defection can disbalance TMC is even half of these seats, then the magic figure of 148 will be a distant dream for Mamata’s party.
While the contest in Bengal remains between the two stalwarts, left and Congress remains a crucial alliance. The left and Congress recently announced that their coalition will contest the elections in alliance in the state. Though the party doesn’t hope to be a leader or the majority party after the elections but can pose threat to Mamata as it will bank on the anti-BJP votes.
To add to the anti-BJP forces, AIMIM has also announced to contest the elections in the state. Since the state has one of the largest proportion of Muslims in India and the Hyderabad-based party has made its roads inwards in Bihar, it can be a potential factor in Bengal as well.
AIMIM has already started making preparations. Owaisi has met West Bengal’s young Muslim leader Abbas Siddiqui to throw up speculations of a new front ahead of the 2021 State Assembly election.
Mamata Banerjee faces a battle to ensure religious minorities don’t abandon her party for AIMIM.
Owaisi, who had confirmed that he would field candidates in Bengal after his party’s success in Bihar elections last year, is on a two-day tour of the poll-bound state. Meanwhile, AIMIM had been able to strengthen its organization at the ground level to an impressive extent since the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The districts of Murshidabad, Malda, and Uttar Dinajpur will be litmus test since Owaisi will be a (minor) factor in the districts. However, TMC has maintained that Owaisi being an Urdu-speaking Muslim will not be able to garner votes among the Bengali-speaking Muslims.
The Enormous task ahead for Didi and her Trinamool Congress now to ensure that the AIMIM does not manage to convince the religious minorities in the state from abandoning her. For if even a part of that number does, the situation may become disastrous for Mamata Banerjee. Attach to the anti-incumbency factor that can plague any government after a decade in power, and the party may face a tough time
Mehvish Siddiqui is a student of political science at Jamia Millia Islamia. She writes on politics, culture, and gender. Views expressed are personal.