After pitched battles in East and West Medinipur and Bankura, the battlefield now shifts to an area where Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) succeeded to defend the fort in 2019. Next Tuesday polls will be held in 31 constituencies of Howrah, Hooghly and South 24 Parganas. The question is whether it will bring relief to the TMC, which is worried at the moment according to insiders.
The ruling party is worried on two counts. The first is of course rather a high poll percentage. It was almost 85 per cent on the first day, and the revised figures for the second day too is 84 per cent. A high poll percentage is generally interpreted as a sign of a rather strong anti-incumbency current. According to insiders, this high turnout has made the TMC leadership worried.
The other factor which is worrying Mamata Banerjee is the polarisation of the Hindus towards the BJP. When the people of Nandigram fought against land acquisition move of the Left Front government, Hindus and Muslims were together. But after Suvendu Adhikary’s exit from the party, all the Muslim workers stayed back in TMC while an overwhelming section of the Hindu workers joined Suvendu. All over Purba Medinipur district, in most cases the rival parties clashed with each other, this communal division came to the fore.
This, the TMC strategists feel, is an ominous sign for them. After all, the Muslim population in Bengal is 30 per cent and the Hindu population is near about 70 per cent. As much the voters will be polarised, the BJP will reap the benefit of it.
However, there is one silver lining for the TMC. In 2019 Lok Sabha polls, TMC was leading in 164 assembly segments and the BJP in 120. The TMC sources concede Suvendu had made a huge dent in the Medinipur region and some places adjacent to it. In the rest of Bengal, he does not enjoy such popularity. So, they believe, they still have the chance to equalise the game.
That indirectly points at the possibility of a hung assembly, in which TMC will need the third front (Left-Congress-ISF) to form the government. The common perception is, keeping this possibility Mamata Banerjee has recently appealed for anti-BJP unity through a letter that was sent to 17 leaders including Sonia Gandhi. Interestingly, though a few parties have already reacted to it, Sonia Gandhi has not. Congress leaders claim she will not, at least till the election is over.