Kolkata: General secretary of Jalpaiguri District Committee of BJP Aloke Sen on Thursday held a news conference in Siliguri, announcing his resignation from the party and his resolve to contest as an independent candidate from Dabgram-Fulbari constituency. The reason: he has been denied a party ticket at the constituency where Shikha Chatterjee who had lately deserted Trinamool Congress to join BJP had been given the ticket.
An aggrieved Sen said that all over West Bengal, turncoats of Trinamool have been given tickets by the BJP and they were mostly loyalists of Mukul Roy who, incidentally, was one of the two founder-members of Trinamool Congress, the other being Mamata Banerjee herself. Till his decision to quit Trinamool and join BJP some time ago, Mukul Roy was known to be the right-hand man of Mamata Banerjee. Observers believe the ensuing assembly election in West Bengal is going to be an electoral battle between Trinamool-A team and Trinamool-B team.
In the run-up to the election, the most prominent member of Mamata Banerjee's team to have deserted her in favour of the saffron party has been Trinamool MLA from Nandigram Subhendu Adhikary, the scion of the influential Adhikary family of Contai in East Midnapore.This development has shifted the spotlight once again to Nandigram as Mamata Banerjee has shifted out from her traditional Bhowanipore seat in south Kolkataand filed nomination in Nandigram in this election to meet the challenge posed by Subhendu Adhikary who is contesting in Nandigram this time with a BJP ticket.Nandigram had once held the centre stage of politics in West Bengal. Together with Singur, the movement against forcible land acquisition in Nandigram had been the most important element in the removal of the Left Front government from power and the formation of the Mamata Banerjee government in 2011.
Nandigram created another ripple lately as Mamata Banerjee in course of her poll campaign sustained a leg injury. She has accused BJP supporters of deliberately injuring her while BJP has called it an accident. Mamata Banerjee is now going all over the State with a plastered leg, carried in a wheel chair, addressing several election meetingsevery day.
The battle lines in the campaign for the election are quite asymmetric. A prominent English daily in Kolkata highlighted this on Friday morning in a graphic, 30 important personalities drawn from different fields of life arraigned against one lady with a bandaged leg in a wheel chair. The charge of the BJP brigade is being led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP president J. P. Nadda. The Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister are addressing public meetings in different corners of West Bengal almost daily, shuttling between Delhi and West Bengal almost like daily passengers. Even when visiting Dhaka to attend the golden jubilee of independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan, the Prime Minister had the West Bengal election high on the agenda. With an eye on the votes of the Matua community who are the deciding factor in over 20 assembly seats in West Bengal, he would time off in his two-day trip to Bangladesh to visit Orakandi, about 190 kms from Dhaka, the birthplace of Harichand Thakur, the doyen of the Matua community, and the location of a temple held sacred by the Matua community.
The Sanyukta Morcha, the electoral alliance forged between the Left Front, Congress and the Indian Secular Front is subdued in its campaign. Hardly any big name in the Congress or the CPI(M) ranks are seen in the poll campaign. Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra have made numerous trips to neighouring Assam, addressing election rallies. They are going to poll-bound Kerala also but are yet to visit West Bengal. Congress, it is said, is trying to avoid the contradiction of confronting the CPI(M) in Kerala and fighting as an ally of CPI(M) in West Bengal. But senior CPI(M) leaders from Delhi like Sitaram Yechuri are also not much visible in the poll scene in West Bengal. Analysts wonder if the Left Front – Congress alliance is playing second fiddle to Trinamool in seats where the ruling party in the State is strong, to make it difficult for BJP.
CPI(M) candidates are, however, depending more on door-to-door campaign rather than going for large rallies, though the Left Front has held a central rally at the Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata that had drawn a large crowd. BJP, too, had held a central rally at Brigade Parade Groundaddressed by the Prime Minister, but Trinamool has not held a centralized rally. Trinamool sympathizers apprehend that once campaign concludes in Assam top leaders of BJP would "carpet bomb" West Bengal with rallies.
The contest between Trinamool and BJP is going to be close, though some of the opinion polls carried out by television channels have given Trinamool an edge; a simple majority. If the alliance of Left Front, Congress and Indian Secular Front known as Sanyukta Morcha gets a respectable number of seats, a hung assembly may also be the outcome of the poll, making Trinamool dependent on support from the Morcha for government formation. The chance of the Morch extending support to BJP looks, however, remote.
Going by the results of Lok Sabha election in 2019, to stop the BJP juggernaut, it would be important for Trinamool to woo back voters in the tribal belt of Jhargram, Midnapore West, Purulia and Bankura and the voters in north Bengal where there are 54 assembly seats. In an election where every seat could count, Mamata Banerjee has weaned away the Darjeeling strongman Bimal Gurung from the BJP fold to try to secure the three seats in the hills and about half a dozen seats in the adjoining plains of Terai and Dooars. Influential youth leader of Alipurduar Rajesh Lakra has joined Trinamool, brightening Mamata Banerjee's chances in the tea belt. CPI(M) veteran Ashok Bhattacharya hopes to retain his Siliguri stronghold. CPI(M) has also rallied its forces at Jadavpur in Kolkata where senior leader Sujan Chakraborty is contesting.
In south Bengal, a notable feature is the presence of a large number of candidates from the world of cinema and television entertainment channels in the candidates' list of both Trinamool and BJP. Mamata Banerjee has laid emphasis on youthful candidates with a clean image. As a result, some veterans have been denied tickets. This has triggered an exodus from Trinamool to BJP but Mamata Banerjee says she is not worried about most of the desertions.