2019 general elections: What’s really happening in West Bengal?

Mamata Banerjee, Amit Shah

Chennai: Ever since polling for 2019 Lok Sabha elections began, West Bengal has been making headlines for the war of words between its Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A State that was predominantly ruled by the Left saw a paradigm shift as battle lines were drawn between the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the BJP leaving Communists and Congress far behind.

The campaign saw allegations, counter-allegations and clashes between TMC and BJP. And there was literally no noise from the rest.

Though there are just 42 constituencies in Mamata’s land, the State had been scheduled for seven-phase polling (12 April to 19 May). And the campaign hit a new low with personal attacks on leaders from either sides and bloody battle on streets between cadres.

With Opposition parties, including the BJP, crying foul that Mamata was using the State administration to further her interests in the elections, only Central security personnel were ordered to oversee the voting process during the fifth phase of elections 6 May. The State police were stopped 100 metres from the booths.

Amidst all the chaos leading to the polls, violence broke out in a rally addressed by BJP national president Amit Shah. Supporters of the BJP and TMC fought pitched battles on the streets of Kolkata during a massive road show by Amit Shah, a couple of days ago.

He escaped unhurt but was forced to cut short the jamboree and had to be escorted to safety by the police. Several parts of the city plunged into violence as his convoy was attacked with stones by alleged TMC supporters.

Amit Shah Wednesday accused the TMC of creating an atmosphere of violence in West Bengal.

Clashes in Kolkata

In such a crucial scenario, the Election Commission (EC), in a first-of-its-kind decision, curtailed all electioneering in the State by a day (Thursday, 10 pm) on grounds that the State government had failed to provide a level playing field to all candidates.

Campaigning for the seventh phase of the general elections was to end at 6 pm Friday. In a six-page order, the commission took the unanimous view that some special measures were urgently needed to arrest the prevailing situation in these nine parliamentary constituencies to create a conducive law and order situation to hold free, fair and peaceful elections.

There was talk that a large section of Left supporters are rallying behind the BJP. They could be seen carrying saffron flags and hailing Modi. And the CPI (M) has not denied this.

Former chief minister and senior Communist leader Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, in an interview to his party organ Gnanasakthi, said, “There is no use in leaping from a TMC frying pan into the BJP’s fireplace.”

CPI(M) MLA from Habibpur in Malda district, Khagen Murmu, recently joined the BJP and this Lok Sabha elections, he is fighting as BJP’s candidate from the Malda North parliamentary constituency.

A few also say that RSS has been doing good ground work in several tribal areas, especially in the interior parts of West Bengal that brought BJP more support from the Left camp.

In the last general elections, TMC bagged 34 of the 42 seats. It emerged the fourth largest party in the country. However, things won’t be easy this time, say political pundits. They add, “The rise of BJP is sure to give surprising results on 23 May.”

M BHARAT KUMAR