Vinod SharmaAs the assembly elections in West Bengal are coming closer, the political slugfest between the ruling Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party is also increasing. The latest example of this political pull-out came when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and party MP Abhishek Banerjee, who is also her political heir, filed a defamation case in Kolkata court against Union Home Minister Amit Shah. In fact, Abhishek Banerjee is upset with Amit Shah’s alleged defamatory statements, made on 11 August, 2018 at a BJP rally held on Mayo Road in Kolkata, accusing Mamata Banerjee and Abhishek Banerjee of indulging in chit fund scams and promoting and patronising corruption in the State. But now the question arises: what was the need to file a defamation case in 2021 after almost two and a half years against statement given in 2018.Well, only Abhishek Banerjee and Chief Minister could answer this, but it seems that this is a part of the Trinamool Congress’ electoral strategy. However, despite her tireless efforts and political gimmicks, Mamata Banerjee and her party is feeling helpless in stopping the growing mass base of BJP on the soil of Bengal.Certainly, the BJP, which is constantly gaining support and strengthening in Bengal at the time of elections, is a matter of grave concern for Mamata Banerjee, who is seeking to retain power for third consecutive term, riding on her much-publicised slogan of Maa, Maati and Manushas well as her much-hyped development plank. But if we look at the political developments of the past few times, Mamata Banerjee’s retaining power in Bengal does not seem so easy, especially when many big leaders of Trinamool Congress are coming BJP’s fold, one after the other. The latest desertion of TMC frontman in Delhi and Mamata’s close confidant Member of Parliament Dinesh Trivedi, who also served as TMC;s Railway Minister in UPA Government, is seen as a big setback for Mamata Banerjee and a major victory for the BJP. Trivedi’s joining hands with the BJP may prove to be a decisive factor in Bengal assembly elections. This seems to be just the beginning as possibility of TMC’s other important leaders joining the BJP bandwagon can’t be ruled out after the saffron party is on the prowl to weaken TMC by extracting its first row leadership. In such a situation, as the elections come closer, the political war between Trinamool Congress and BJP will intensify and reach its peak.To recall, ever since the NDA Government was formed at the Centre, there has been a kind of political hatred and malice between BJP and the Trinamool Congress. Elected as Chief Minister for first time in 2011, the country’s fiery woman leader Mamata Banerjee was doing well with the successive UPA Government at the Centre as she had been herself a leading leader of the Congress before forming her own party, Trinamool Congress. In this way, there was no significant difference in the ideology of Congress and TMC, except for furthering personal political ambitions. But when Narendra Modi got saddled in 2014 and NDA turned, thereafter, Bengal to find its political landscape, the Trinamool Congress was shocked to the hilt. Due to this political hatred, Mamta Banerjee did not allow many of the Central Government’s welfare schemes-especially Ayushman Bharat and various farmer welfare schemes-to be implemented in West Bengal. Meanwhile, the spat was marked by incessant political killings and attacks on different political leaders which led to spewing of ‘poison’ against one another, resulting into escalation of hostility and political hatred.If this was not enough, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee recently refused to deliver her address, angered by the raising of slogans of Jai Shri Ram in presence of Prime Minister Modi on the occasion of the birth anniversary celebrations of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose held in Kolkata. Furthermore, Mamta Banerjee also surprised everyone by demanding the creation of India’s four other capitals, including Kolkata, so that people don’t have to rush to the national capital Delhi for their work. This demand of Mamata was viewed and criticised as “weird’ in the political circles. Going by these utterances, it seems, the biases of regionalism and language are weighing heavily over the federal structure of the country, which is detrimental to the core constitutional system.As far as the upcoming assembly elections in Bengal are concerned, political prestige of both BJP and the Trinamool Congress are at high stakes. While the Bharatiya Janata Party is making strenuous efforts to form its first Government in the state, the Trinamool too does not want to be out of power at any cost. That is why Mamata Banerjee has decided to hire election strategist Prashant Kishore to make a better election strategy and to keep the BJP out of the power game of Bengal.Recalling, in 2016, when BJP had won only 3 seats in the 294-seat assembly, while Trinamool Congress re-formed the government with an overwhelming majority of 214 seats. The Congress won 23 seats, while Communist Party of Marxist had to be contented with 19 seats. But the BJP bounced back dramatically, winning 23 seats in by-elections by 2020. Not only this, in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP performed superbly, winning 18 seats out of a total of 42 Lok Sabha seats in comparison to only 2 seats, it won in 2014 polls when Modi wave had gripped almost the entire nation., thus springing a major political surprise. The ruling Trinamool could win only 22 seats as against 34 seats it had won in 2014 parliamentary elections. It can be easily guessed from these figures that BJP’s performance in Bengal is continuously on increase, the final results of which will be quite surprising and interesting in the upcoming elections.The BJP has already started its vociferous election campaign in Bengal. Party President Jagat Prakash Nadda, Union Ministers Amit Shah and Smriti Irani are prominent faces of campaigning in the state who are trying to woo voters, especially poor sections of society and farmers from rural areas. While Mamata Banerjee is offering free corona vaccine to voters, among other poll promises, BJP leaders are mainly accusing the Trinamool Government of eroding Bengali culture and promoting chaos and corruption in the land of Tagore and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose while stalling centrally-sponsored development projects and welfare schemes.At the same time, the Congress has joined hands with the CPI (M) to counter Mamata and BJP. Apart from this, the Hindustani Awami Morcha of Bihar’s Jitan Ram Manjhi and Shiv Sena are also preparing to beat electoral table, but a tough political battle between TMC and the BJP is on the cards while other parties appear smaller players as far as the ensuing elections are concerned.However, it will not be a cakewalk for Mamata Banerjee to make a hat-trick. BJP appears determined to demolish citadel of Trinamool Congress to continue its victory juggernaut in Bengal while TMC has the herculean task of guarding its fort at a critical juncture when its mass base is shrinking and its frontmen are leaving the party to give jitters to the party leadership.(The author is a former IIS officer)
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