Karma, as we all know, is a tricky customer; it strikes and bites back when one least expects. Mamata Banerjee’s evolution from a confident leader ready for a national role to a shaky regional satrap involved in a bitter fight has been quite startling and revealing. Within a couple of months, the BJP has had a remarkable surge, courtesy an aggressive policy which used to be the trademark of Bengal’s firebrand Didi. Irrespective of the election results, Mamata Banerjee will be an extremely worried person contemplating her party’s future post this 16th.
The imminent fight
As of today, though, Didi is more eager to secure the present. Tomorrow is the biggest phase of polling in Bengal. 17 seats, including those in Kolkata, are going to the polls. Out of these, the TMC won 16 in 2009. It is now openly accepted that the party is extremely unlikely to repeat that feat in this election. In many places, the BJP is going to play the role of a grand spoiler alongside the Congress, which has a small but dedicated percentage of votes in every constituency. What the TMC leaders fear is that this division of vote can actually aid the prospects of the Left Front, which got virtually dead and buried in the last Assembly election.
The negative vibe
One of the factors which is likely to play a huge negative impact on tomorrow’s vote is the state government’s inability to kick-start the industrialisation process. Bengal, and particularly Kolkata, still remains in a time warp of past glories. Thus, when Modi comes and tells about the Gujarat model of development, it has a degree of resonance among the youths. The best and brightest have left the state, and the rest are languishing in very moribund conditions.
Politics is often about perception. The state government’s stoic opposition in handing over the Sharada probe to the CBI has hampered the credibility of the ruling party. There is a notion that a cover up has been attempted by the government. Also, the way Didi’s men have botched up in several instances like TET exam, etc., has made them easy targets of an aggressive opposition.
Virtually every trick perfected by the TMC before is now being used by rival parties. From demanding a CBI investigation in every issue to trying to smother any positive step of the government, the opposition parties are not giving any leeway.
There has been overwhelming disapproval of the rather unsavoury bickering between Narendra Modi and Mamata Banerjee. Some believe that the TMC went overboard calling the PM candidate “Butcher of Gujarat”. The Bengali “bhadrolok” (decent people) may like his tarko (argument) in an adda, but prefer to keep it classy and subtle.
Some glimmer of hope
Facing all these odds, the TMC is banking on a few positive factors to finally save the day. Among the urbanised Bengali, there is still broadly a huge rejection of Leftist politics and the stagnancy it imposed on the state for three-and-a-half decades. Thus, it is unlikely that people unhappy with the TMC will switch loyalties to the Left so soon. For the same reason, they may refrain from voting for the BJP in huge numbers, fearing that the Left will be beneficial due to split in votes. Pundits believe that the BJP will only get votes in constituencies where there is a “winnable” candidate. In rest of the constituencies, it will be mostly a fight between the TMC and the Left Front. Also, the TMC in South Bengal, including in Kolkata, is so far ahead of its opponents that even if it comes down a few notches, it is likely to retain most of the seats. The party also has a well-knit organisation to “conduct” the elections, unlike other parties who are absent in some pockets of the state.
EC has its work cut out
The TMC knows that it needs to get more than 25 seats out of the 42 to emerge as a significant player post elections. For this, the party has to win at least 12-13 seats in this phase. The opposition fears that this desperation may tempt the TMC to use strong-arm tactics like it allegedly resorted to in the third phase of polling in Bengal. The Election Commission is on tenterhooks, geared to face the challenge. Two observers have been appointed per constituency to keep a complete tab on the voting process. Since the constituencies are mostly in Kolkata and nearby areas, the media hopes to play a major role in exposing any shenanigans of the political parties. Already there has been news of sporadic violence in Kolkata, with the TMC being blamed in each case. The last phase of polling went peacefully, but it was in Jangal Mahal where the TMC rules the roost. Often, even contests lead to altercations; thus all eyes will be on how fairly and peacefully elections happen tomorrow in the keenly contested 17 seats.
TMC still ahead
There are some seats like Jadavpur, South Kolkata, and Diamond Harbour which the TMC will find difficult to lose, even if it tries very hard! The party, despite the bad press it has received (legitimately), is still miles ahead of the opposition. Thus, they will win more than 10 seats in this phase pretty comfortably. Expect Didi’s bright smile and lampooning all the alleged sarojantro (conspiracy) against her post this 16th. There is still some time for Karma to catch up!