This election Mamata Banerjee is focusing on Dalits and Bengali nationalism

The upcoming elections of West Bengal are not just going to see a strong fight between the BJP and anti-incumbency facing  TMC  but it is also going to witness new factors  at work in West Bengal politics.

The BJP which forayed in recent years in West Bengal, has made caste and community as its campaign pitch. The TMC had come to power ending the Communist rule which mostly revolved around the labour and development.  BJP and TMC are now playing their assembly race on the appeasement of religions sections.

Interestingly, twisting the tale this time, on March 6, Didi announced 291 candidates of the 294 assembly seats. The list has fewer number of candidates belonging to the minority community. 

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Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee along with TMC leaders and supporters during a rally on ‘Nandigram Diwas’, in Kolkata, Sunday, March 14, 2021. (PTI Photo/Ashok Bhaumik)(PTI03_14_2021_000037B)

Of the 291candidates, 40 percent are new faces including nine actors, 2 sportspersons and a retired IPS officer. It thus makes it more of a collection of all those who matter than minority centered as was believed to be the case during the last elections.

Also, the representation of women has been increased by 6 to 51. More than any previous polls the list includes young faces. In an attempt to bring back her lost voters–the Dalits , who have gone with BJP in 2016, Mamata has for the first  time held a convention for the community and promised a slew of concessions.

Although less, but Didi has given ticket to 79 schedule caste persons in order to bring back the community to her fold.  From playing decisive politics and simultaneously suppressing any dissents from BJP, Mamata is running from pillar to post and is even sitting on a wheelchair to continue the rigorous campaign. 

Bankura: West Bengal CM and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, sitting on a wheel-chair, addresses an election campaign rally ahead of state assembly polls, in Bankura, Tuesday, March 16, 2021. (PTI Photo)(PTI03_16_2021_000071B)

The party which is facing incumbency issues is trying its best and is ready to take on any obstacle to retain power.  To arrest the possible caste appeasement picking up in the state by BJP, Didi is talking about Bengal’s different language and culture and how the BJP is doing assimilation jig to woo certain sections of the Bengalis. To quote Mamata Banerjee, “First ask him to learn the Sarasvati shlokas. They don’t even know who Maa Durga is and they are dreaming of playing politics in Bengal.”

BJP always viewed TMC as pro Muslim and Shah has mentioned it in his speeches that the state has three laws — one for vote bank (Muslims), one for Bhatija (CM nephew Abhishek Banerjee) and another one for the rest of the population.  With COVID on the rise, which is of immediate concern, instead of talking about the economic revival packages, the two parties are fighting on a different agenda.  

The Amit shah camp on the other hand, has made it all about temple  run from chanting  Jai Shri Ram slogans to visiting the famous temples of historical value  and performing  Puja there.  The BJP is obviously trying to invoke the religious fervor among the Bengalis. The BJP is also collecting chanda for Ayodhya temple construction. In its drive it has already covered 5 million households. This is being done in order to educate the people on the need to reconstruct mandir in Ayodhya. 

Expressing his opinion, Habibullah, a political analyst in West Bengal says, “The Left parties and the Congress have lost lot of voters to BJP. Modi was more popular than Didi in Lok Sabha polls. Caste and community factors run high in Bengal politics. But there can be a different result for the assembly polls. Didi can be more popular as CM candidate.  BJP does not have a formidable face to challenge Didi. To win, BJP has to seek votes in the name of Modi. There is no other formidable name in the race from that party.”

The Congress will contest to lay claim to a total of 92 seats. Its ally, the Left Front will field candidates from 165 constituencie while the newly-founded Indian Secular Front of Abbas Siddiqui has managed to wrestle 37 seats as part of the seat-sharing formula.  

After making a foray into Bihar Assembly and municipal polls in  Gujarat, AIMIM will be  for the first time contesting in West Bengal. When asked about the party prospects, an AIMIM party leader on condition of anonymity said, “Our agenda is to make inroads into the state, in areas from where we can represent the minorities. We will focus on areas where our party has been working for the last 8 years.” 

The Election Commission of India has announced  the election dates for the 295 Bengal assembly seats , which is to be held in 8 phases starting from March 27, April 1, 6 ,10 ,17, 26 , 22  and 29. The announcement of results  will  be  on May 2. 

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