The third round of polling is currently underway in West Bengal. In this phase electorates of 9 seats belonging to 4 districts of South Bengal are voting. TMC remains the overarching dominant player in these seats and is expected to win most. In the last General election, TMC got 5 seats out of the 9 in fray today. Left Front got the rest. Congress and BJP are also putting up a spirited fight in these constituencies.
Cautious Election Commission
This is a phase which is perhaps an acid test for the Election Commission. In the earlier two phases no major untoward incidents were reported. But the challenge for EC is to maintain that streak in places like Bardhaman, Birbhum and Haora. Already within couple of hours of voting there have been reports of sporadic violence with finger of accusation raised against Trinamool Congress. All eyes are on Birbhum, home to Trinamool strongman Anubrato Mandal who has had several run-ins with Election Commission in the past.
Commission is confident that they can live up to the challenge of conducting successful polls in semi-rural Bengal. The 9 seats currently voting are Haora, Uluberia, Sreerampur, Hughli, Arambag, Bardhaman East, Bardhaman-Durgapur, Bolpur and Birbhum. There are nearly 3,000 micro observers keeping a close look to ensure polls are going peacefully. Elaborate arrangements have been made for video recording and webcasting from extremely sensitive booths. Districts which have some amount of Maoist influence have got extra blanket of security. Helicopters are there to conduct aerial surveillance. In total 265 companies of CRPF jawans and 32 thousand armed police have been deployed by Election Commission for these 9 seats.
Now let us evaluate the expectations of the 4 main political parties from this phase of election.
Based on their performance in last Assembly election, TMC hopes to win all the 9 seats. But in this three years certain amount of anti –incumbency has crept in and also there is a palpable Modi wave. So it may lose out a couple of seats. TMC is almost sure to win around 5 out of the 9. For the rest it is a fight to the finish. The party hopes that its well-oiled machinery can deliver the goods in this crucial round of polling.
Places like Bardhaman used to be Left bastion. But those are matters of the past. All the foot soldiers have now joined TMC and Left seems to be absent in large areas. But it can always bank on its silent core vote bank. Left Front led by CPIM hopes that vote division will help it to win 5-6 seats. Realistically though Left has a decent chance of winning in 4 constituency.
When TMC and Congress were in alliance, the grand old party hardly got to contest in South Bengal. The party organisation has become extremely rusty with no real leaders in many districts. For Congress the fight is to become again relevant in South Bengal. Party hopes to build the base for 2016 Assembly polls with a reasonable showing in LokSabha elections.
BJP buoyed by the Modi wave is in contention in 3 seats. But for BJP to pick up seats, it needs to increase its existing vote share by nearly 20%. Inspite of all the media hype around likes of Bappi Lahiri, P.C.Sarkar etc it is highly unlikely that the party will win any seat. But it can well act as a royal spoiler making the equation dicey for the dominant political party, Trinamool Congress.
In total out of 9 seats, TMC is most likely to get 6-7 and Left 2-3.