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West Bengal Election: Why the final leg could prove the most crucial for Mamata Banerjee

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West Bengal Mamata Banerjee TMC BJPWest Bengal Mamata Banerjee TMC BJPWith a renewed political equation taking shape in the region, if the TMC fails to put up a united show, the division of votes is likely to benefit the saffron party.

West Bengal Election 2021: As many as 114 seats out of 294 will be going to polls in the last three phases in West Bengal. While 43 assembly constituencies are going to polls on April 22, 36 assembly constituencies on April 26 and 35 assembly constituencies on April 29. Of these 114 seats, the TMC had won around 60 seats in the previous election as most of these regions have been dominated by the TMC since 2011. Notably, the TMC had won 28 of these seats in 2011 and had improved its tally to 32 in the 2016 assembly polls.

While the Congress-Left alliance had won 11 of these constituencies in 2016, the real fight this time is between the BJP and the TMC. If the results of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections are taken into consideration, the saffron party has taken a lead in around 24 assembly segments.

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In the seventh phase polls, 36 seats will go to the polls on April 26 in the seventh phase. The TMC had won 14 of these constituencies in 2016 and 17 seats in 2011. The CPI-M led alliance had won 22 seats. The BJP had equalled the TMC figure in the 2019 polls by taking a lead in 16 constituencies.

In the eighth phase, 35 constituencies will go to the polls. The TMC had won 14 of these in 2011 and had increased its tally to 17 in 2016. The Congress-Left alliance had won 16 of these seats with the Congress winning 13 seats alone in the 2016 polls. The BJP had won just one but it has been focussing on the areas where it could not perform well and had managed to secure a lead in 11 constituencies in the 2019 polls. The TMC held leads in 19 of them and the Congress in five only.

Mamata Banerjee had won a massive 211 out of 294 seats in the 2016 polls, the TMC’s best performance so far. Given the lead that the BJP got in the 2019 polls, the TMC needs to address anti-incumbency and discontentment on one hand and the Hindutva narrative that is fast gaining foothold in the state. To counter these twin challenges, Mamata has propped up the issue of Bengali identity, something she using to flare up the insider vs outsider emotions. She first created the outsider debate and then came up with the ‘bangla nijer meyeke chai’ slogan which means Bengal wants its daughter. However, she got the taste of her own medicine in Nandigram where her protegee turned rival termed Banerjee an outsider to the constituency.

With a renewed political equation taking shape in the region, if the TMC fails to put up a united show, the division of votes is likely to benefit the saffron party. The BJP has not only bagged a good chunk of leaders from the TMC but has been predicted to emerge as the second-largest party in the state. With the division of votes taking place mostly on the religious and caste lines, the TMC needs to find a way to keep its vote share intact.

If reports and surveys are to be believed, this time the state has a large number of floating voters who are/were indecisive about whom to vote this time. The BJP and the TMC have indulged in a perception war to catch this chunk of voters. While Mamata Banerjee has maintained that it’s going to win over 220 seats this time, its strategist Prashant Kishor has said that the saffron party will not reach a three-digit figure. For the BJP, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has claimed that the BJP is easily winning 200 seats, Prime Minister Narendra Modi went a step ahead declaring that the BJP has taken a decisive lead and asked the state government officials to prepare a list of beneficiaries who will be receiving various benefits under central government schemes once the BJP forms a government in the state.

A high voter turnout in the last five phases have made the battle interesting and is being seen benefitting the saffron party. Thus, it becomes important for the TMC to increase its tally in the last three phases. If the TMC’s tally does not improve, then a fall is imminent – a fall of 10-year-old TMC’s rule, a fall of a feisty leader who overthrew the 34-year-old CPI-M rule. For BJP, it will be a chance to bring ‘Asol Poribortan’ that it has been raking up in every rally.

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