The second phase of polling in Bengal passed without any major hiccup. In total nearly 82% of voters exercised their democratic rights. The only major news came from Jangipur where TMC candidate Haji Nurul entered polling booth with huge number of supporters. A FIR has been filed against him by Election Commission.
The path ahead
With 11 seats out of the way, political parties are now concentrating on the remaining 31 seats mostly clustered in South Bengal. The ruling party in Bengal Trinamool Congress is incredibly strong in this area. Some even predict them to pick up 27-28 of the rest 31 seats. But the opposition parties are not willing to concede without a fight. A month long campaign means the situation in ground is fast changing. Especially after the Saradha scam has resurfaced, the ruling regime seems to be in a spot of bother. The opposition parties are trying to recalibrate their strategy accordingly and TMC is also doing likewise.
TMC’s Achilles heel
Increasingly the ruling party has to fight a perception battle regarding the Saradha scam issue. TMC supremo has cried hoarse alleging political conspiracy specially questioning the timing of Enforcement Directorate’s summons and arrests. But the fact is that the story is making headlines every day. Channels are running special shows, organizing panels regarding this huge controversy. The opposition are also playing it up gleefully. TMC leaders say that this chit fund scam will fail to impact them electorally as it was evident in Panchayat Elections. Opposition leaders counter saying that those rural body elections were mockery of democracy and the TMC will experience real wrath of people this time around. Left parties have started to attack not only TMC but also Congress leaders in this issue.
TMC changes strategy
The common notion is that Trinamool Congress started campaigning in this election with an extremely smug attitude. Party leaders used to say that they can even win all the 42 seats in the state. Surveys which gave less than 30 seats to the party were laughed off. But gradually TMC leaders especially Mamata Banerjee has realised that the party is not necessarily the default option for all anti-left voters.
Merely blaming all other parties in every issue will not cut ice with the electorates. Especially the state is in a weak wicket in economic front with very little actual investment flowing in. Thus didi has started sharing statistics in her FB page about how state government is number 1 on spending funds in 100 days work scheme and how planned expenditure has reached an all-time high.
Along with the development plank, didi has decided that offence is the best defence to deal with the Saradha crisis. In rally after rally, she tries to convince voters about how the government bought perpetrators to book, even jailing one of the sitting TMC MP. She has also softened the rhetoric against Election Commission.
BJP- the X factor
Everybody knows BJP is increasing their vote share but nobody is sure who will bear the brunt of it. The conventional wisdom suggests they would get a share of the anti-Left vote hurting TMC in the process. But now ground reports have emerged that many Left voters are switching allegiance this time. The udbastu (mainly poor people who migrated from erstwhile East Pakistan in 1971) voters were considered a strong base for Left. The heady cocktail of soft hindutwa mixed with development agenda served by BJP is weaning those voters also.
Sensing a breakthrough, Narendra Modi will return for campaigning on 27th. Party leaders want him to do a rally in every “winnable” seat. Rahul Gandhi is also scheduled to come at least twice more. Elections in Bengal are certainly turning out to be far from one-sided like it was originally predicted.