FOUR phases of six-phase West Bengal Assembly election is already over. Two main opponents — Left Front led by the CPM and the TMC-INC group—both are claiming that people have favoured them. Polling of last two phases will take place on May 7th and 10th and then on May 13th final result will be declared. It is a question of few days to get the final picture of the election. So the question of whether there will be a “change” or “return of old guards” will be settled on that day and people in general, have a feeling that “change” is a must. Let us be dispassionate about it and wait till the final result is declared.
In the meantime, very interestingly, another controversy has come up and that is regarding the prospect of BJP in this election. Political leaders of other parties and the political pundits who generally fell back upon their old hackneyed ideas while writing political commentaries, used to term BJP as a ‘non entity’ in the political arena of the State. But after the second phase of polling was over, the above mentioned groups have unusually become very much alert about BJP. For instance, Mamata Banerjee, the flamboyant leader of TMC and self appointed future CM of the State, had started abusing BJP left and right. The insinuations are all old. So there is no need repeating them. But this time, her abusive language towards BJP was apparently intolerable. She was a part of the NDA for a long time and she used to touch the feet of Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani. Now on her election campaign after second phase of polling declared that she has no respect for Advaniji as a political leader. But she respects his age. Curiously enough on the following day of Mamata’s speech Advaniji came to West Bengal and delivered a number of election speeches in which he did not even mention the name of Mamata. Political commentators say that she deserved this treatment!
According to the TMC it is the strength of BJP in north Bengal which unnerved her and she could not keep her cool. Aajkaal, a Bengali daily which has got strong left-leaning has commented that at least in 64 seats BJP is set to give them trouble. This newspaper’s perception is that BJP has very good chances in 4/5 seats. When Mamata argued that BJP is in league with CPM and to help them they have decided to contest all the 294 seats. She further alleged that last time (2006) they fought only in 32 assembly seats. Shri Tathagata Roy, former State president of State BJP countered this allegation by mentioning the fact that last time they were in alliance with TMC and the directive from their central office was whatever Mamata demands just allow her to have them. Roy said, that was the reason why they had contested in 32 constituencies. Had there been no alliance they would have fought all the seats.
The Times of India, Kolkata edition, took a completely different view. It said, “There may be little gain in terms of seats this time, but the larger game plan is to emerge as a new player in the State’s otherwise bipolar politics, where Congress still keeps its own little space, as CPM and Trinamool vie for the lion’s share of votes. BJP’s target for 2014 Lok Sabha is to ensure that Trinamool is pushed back into the NDA.”
It further said “BJP is playing at taking vote share up from 4 per cent to 8 per cent which looks achievable this time. With 8 per cent vote share, BJP hopes to influence results in 25 seats and with 12 per cent, it could make an impact on 50 seats.”
With an eye at beating Congress in the LS polls, over corruption and other issues, if BJP can influence 50 Assembly segments, the chances of wooing back Mamata to the NDA fold goes up.
In this connection one should not forget the basic reasons behind voters coming nearer to the BJP and that is the over enthusiastic propaganda by both CPM and Trinamool in favour of Muslims, put the mainstream Indians i.e. Hindus of this State were compelled to rethink about their attitude towards political parties. In this process BJP could establish itself as the preferred party for the Hindus. So Hindu bashing would become counter productive for other political parties.
Both the opposite camps in this Assembly election are happy with large number of votes polled in the last four phases. On an average the percentage of votes polled in the last four phases was 85 per cent. The arguments put forward by the Left parties including CPM were that primarily voters list have been prepared by those government employees who were members of CPM and Left parties sponsored Co-ordination Committee. This Committee was being directed by the bosses of Alimuddin Street (CPM HQ situated on this street). Hence the voters’ list was filled up with false, fake and fictitious names. Lakhs of such names were there in the voters’ list. As there was no specific allegation against this maneuvering in voters’ list before the Election Commission, there was no revision or correction of the said list. Naturally this faulty list was valid for the current election. Over and above this, false voting, booth-jamming, illegally stopping genuine voters to vote, violence in polling centres etc, were there.
So the CPM and the Left Front had dominated in all the seven Assembly elections. As the pro-active role of Election Commission was not there as it is visible this time, they took advantage of the situation. Bartaman, a Bengali daily of Kolkata, while covering the election stories mentioned an interesting story where a voter from Howrah said that after 34 years he got the chance to cast his own vote by himself. Then he went on, why it was so. He said that he lives in a big apartment house where 200 valid voters live. On each and every election day they used to see that a big lock was hanging on the main gate and no one was allowed to get out during election time. This tactics was rampant throughout the State and there was none to stop it. Ruling party of the State and the administration was hands in glove to manipulate election in their favour.
Trinamool and so to say the whole Opposition is hopeful because the voters were able to cast votes by themselves. Hence it is a general perception that the fate of the State is not going to depend on the ‘old guards’ again.