West Bengal has been the centre of attention during the ongoing Lok Sabha polls. With the Congress and the CPI(M) remaining irrelevant, there is a closely watched contest between the BJP and the Mamata Banerjee led TMC. While the BJP has emerged as a force to reckon with, there have been reports about TMC workers resorting to political violence in order to counter BJP’s rise. The intensity of violence reached its zenith when there were clashes during BJP president Amit Shah’s rally.
As per a latest HT report, the internal analysis and feedbacks to the TMC have indicated that the Left’s vote share-which stood at 30 per cent during the 2014 parliamentary elections, is shifting to some extent to the BJP. This seems to have sent the warning bells ringing for the Mamata Banerjee led party. A TMC leader speaking on the condition of anonymity said, “Our prospects now hinge on the level of shift of the Left vote. We hope to get more than 30 seats but if the Left loses more than 10% of its share, we may even go down to 25.”
The ruling party in West Bengal is also worried about the fact that at least in 15 Lok Sabha constituencies where the minority concentration is low, the BJP has a fair chance. Moreover, the addition of the Left’s vote share to the BJP’s popularity among the electorate might further bolster its presence among the Bengali middle class. In to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP had won two seats and its vote share stood at 16 per cent. The Left had garnered 30 per cent vote share. Over the past five years, the BJP has dislodged the Left as the main challenger to the Mamata Banerjee led party. It is, therefore, only natural that a substantial portion of the Left’s vote share will shift towards the BJP further strengthening its presence in the state. As per BJP leader and Assam minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, “The right-thinking people [who] belong to CPM, belong to Congress and even belong to TMC… are voting for BJP… In a political sense, you can say that CPM votes are being transferred to the BJP; this is one part of the story. But I believe that CPM, Congress and TMC – the right-thinking people of all these three parties, they are voting for PM Modi this time.”
This report seems to explain the rise in political violence in the state of West Bengal over the past few phases. Things took a rather ugly turn when Amit Shah’s roadshow was attacked. Videos of exodus of Hindus from Satgachia Assembly Constituency in Diamond Harbour have also surfaced indicating how West Bengal is witnessing a spike in violence in the background of the ongoing elections. This becomes even more worrisome given the fact that the violence was said to be of a political nature rather than communal. According to an ET report, 337 incidents of violence have been recorded from the state by the Central Forces with maximum violations recorded during the third and the sixth phases.
The TMC seems to have been rattled by the fast changing political dynamics in the state. An internal party analysis or survey can always be a little more conservative than the actual ground situation. The BJP in all probability enjoys an even better position than the one anticipated by the TMC’s internal analysis. West Bengal is all set to witness a major political turnaround.