This is slightly baffling, considering that the TMC and BJP were, until recently, being spoken of as potential allies in the next government.
The source of Mamata’s anxiety lies perhaps in her realisation that the BJP will do better in West Bengal than she had anticipated.
According to reports in the local media, the state Intelligence Bureau has predicted victory for BJP candidates in four constituencies: Darjeeling, Krishnanagar, Asansol and Dumdum. The report also suggested that the BJP’s vote share will increase from 6% to 15%, limiting the TMC to between 18 and 22 of West Bengal’s 42 seats.
The IB has also predicted that if BJP successfully maintains this influence on Bengal politics, Mamata may face a bigger challenge from them in 2016 assembly elections.
For the moment, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which ruled the state for three decades, is quite jubilant at the embarrassment the TMC is facing due to the Saradha Chit fund scam, a Ponzi scheme that provided financial support to several TMC leaders. The CPI(M) believes that the rise of BJP will help it in the Lok Sabha elections as the saffron party will mostly cut into TMC vote share. But that seems to be a short-term view. Should the BJP make serious inroads in West Bengal, it is CPI(M) whose role as opposition would be threatened the most.
However, while the BJP has not found any other way to project itself in the state except to piggyback on Modi’s appeal, the Left has intelligently changed its strategy and is becoming more aggressive with each mistake made by the TMC government. For instance, the CPI(M)’s youth unit has been at the forefront in organising protests in the state against the mismanagement of the Teachers Eligibility Test, which led to a few suicides. The party is trying to expand its organisational base with protest movements like these and may be able to gain back some of its loyal voters with this election.
It is most likely that the confrontation between Mamata and Modi will intensify in the coming days. If Modi takes power at the Centre, there is a real threat of crackdown on TMC leaders involved in Saradha scam. This could alter power relations in the state.
However, Mamata appears to be up for the challenge. When she took on the mighty Community leader Jyoti Basu, she enthused her party workers and rural supporters with the image of herself, a single sari-clad chappal-wearing woman, as David fighting Goliath. Targeting Modi may be the part of the same strategy.
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