Bengal holds the Key

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If TMC gets majority seats, with the BJP as the main opposition party, it will be a win-win situation for both. Furthermore, if TMC wins, this will also affect the implementation of CAA and NRC in the state and also nationally.

After the year of the Covid-19 pandemic, 2021 has brought forth some of the fiercest state elections in India with West Bengal at top of the political drama. In West Bengal, it seems that the BJP gives a tough competition for Mamata Banerjee and her 10-year rule in the state. The strong presence of the Trinamool Congress and now the increasing presence of the BJP seem to have marginalised the Left front, which had ruled West Bengal for over 30 years. Mamata is certainly facing difficulties due to emergence of IFS or AIMIM in Bengal.

The country is witnessing an over-heated summer with huge political drama. It will be interesting to see whether Mamata Banerjee will be able to stop the ‘Juggernaut of Delhi’, with Modi, Shah and entire cabinet along with their CMs and prominent leaders campaigning in the state, especially in Nandigram.

In the midst of all these, what has hit the hardest to Mamata is the exodus of important Trinamool leaders to the BJP. The trend began soon after the 2019 election. The most spectacular defection came recently with Suvendu Adhikari joining the BJP in a public meeting attended by Union Home Minister Amit Shah on December 19, 2020. This was the biggest political development ahead of the forthcoming election, for the former Cabinet minister was arguably the most influential mass leader in the party after Mamata Banerjee. His influence is not confined to just his own constituency but stretches over several districts. Nine other Trinamool lawmakers and several district and block-level leaders joined the BJP along with him.

Suvendu Adhikari’s departure has symbolic significance. His constituency and stronghold of Nandigram is a symbol of Mamata Banerjee’s fight against the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front. The movement in Nandigram followed the killing of 14 villagers, including women, in police firing on March 14, 2007, during an agitation against the Left Front government’s forcible acquisition of land for industrial use. It was arguably the most important mass movement Mamata Banerjee ever led, and it propelled her party to power in 2011. Yet, although the agitation took place in her name, it was Suvendu Adhikari who led it from the front. His departure means there is a risk of Nandigram, like Singur, slipping out of the Trinamool’s grasp.

If the BJP wins in West Bengal, this will be the biggest victory for the party by conquering the untouched fort of the state for the first time in India, but it will also have much national impact. This will clearly give the message to all the opposition parties that the Saffron party is unbeatable. The “Operation Lotus” will be active in all the states, where non-BJP parties rule today. States like Maharashtra, which is currently ruled by a coalition of the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress and Rajasthan, which is ruled by the Congress, could face the heat.

The Bengal win may be a threat to the bargaining capacity of BJP’s allies, such as Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) in Bihar or AIADMK in Tamil Nadu. The central government that seems to be on the back foot on the farmers’ agitation will take the forefront and will also be successful in portraying that the issue is limited to Punjab, Haryana and western UP. Importantly, BJP’s most vocal critic since 2014, Mamata Banerjee will not have the same strength. She may lose her emerging National stature.

On the contrary, if Mamata’s TMC gets majority seats, with the BJP as the main opposition party, it will be a win-win situation for both. Furthermore, if TMC wins, this will also affect the implementation of CAA and NRC in the state and also nationally.

The Left is the biggest enemy of both the Trinamool Congress and BJP, and the Congress aligning with the Left-front in West Bengal makes it also an enemy of the TMC. Her win will also certify that the welfare schemes started are proving useful for a large proportion of the population in the state. We have to admit that the fighter Mamata has a loyal vote bank and there is not much anti-incumbency against her.  There could also be further efforts to form a political front against the BJP and Mamata Banerjee could be a prominent face of this coalition. This will make her second to ailing Sharad Pawar, to stop the juggernaut of Delhi in their respective states and could also elevate her in national politics. She will attack the central government more fiercely over several issues again.

West Bengal election results may not only be crucial for all the major parties, but will also becomes equally important for the next general elections to be held in 2024.

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