The theatre of polls in Bengal now shifts to the citadel of the ruling party. During the last Lok Sabha elections, it had managed leads in more than two-thirds of the 31 seats going to polls on Tuesday. If it can take similar leads this time, the TMC will be in the fight in full steam. Otherwise, its return to power will be put before a question mark.
The bad news for the TMC is that a strong current of Hindu polarisation is reported from these seats of South Bengal too. Many of these seats of Dakshin 24 Parganas, Howrah and Hooghly have a strong presence of Muslim population. This is only accelerating the process of polarisation of the Hindus, thereby strengthening the BJP.
But the BJP has its fair share of bad news too. Out of these 31 seats, 16 are in Dakshin Pargana, the district now known as the bastion of Abhishek Banerjee, the nephew of the Chief Minister. In this district, BJP’s organisation is still weak. Altogether, in half of the total 31, organisational weakness is still troubling the BJP. But the BJP leaders feel, the ‘Abbas factor’ will help them to win the majority of the seats here too.
Abbas factor refers to Abbas Siddique, the pirzada of Furfura Sharif and the founder of the Indian Secular Front (ISF). He is fighting in alliance with the Left and the Congress party. He has impressive sway over the Muslims of this region as a religious leader. If he can convert a sizable section of his followers to his voters, the division of Muslim votes will certainly help the BJP. Sensing it, Didi and her party is trying hard to portray Abbas as the ‘agent of the BJP’.
Another factor troubling the TMC in Dakshin 24 Parganas is the allegation of corruption in distributing the relief material after Cyclone Amphan.
The main concern of the common man is the volatile situation in the whole region. Allegations of attack by the workers of the ruling party have come today from both the opposition camps. The TMC too have made similar allegations against the BJP and the ISF. The election commission, however, has made elaborate security arrangements. Whether these measures will be proved effective is anybody’s guess.
(The author Diptendra Raychaudhuri is a senior journalist based in Kolkata. He has a wide range of experience in covering West Bengal politics and has authored several books)