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Both TMC And BJP Feel Heat Of Cong-Left Alliance In Bengal

| Updated: April 15, 2024 14:44

In a gesture of benevolence on Eid in Bengal’s Raiganj, a TMC functionary retired teacher Rafique Alam took many by surprise by donating money to the joint candidate of the Congress and Left Front, Imran Ali Ramz aka Victor.

Giving a donation to the candidate of a rival party is beyond any political custom, particularly in Bengal where party rivalries are often brutal.

Alam’s handout assumes significance at a time when both the Congress and Left Front are hoping to make some dent in the TMC’s minority vote bank.

Alam handed over a sum of ₹5,000 as his contribution to Victor’s election funds. He donated another ₹2,000 on behalf of his son-in-law.

“Just like his father, he (Victor) has never indulged in corruption. I made a humble contribution because he does not have money. The BJP government at the Centre has frozen the Congress’s account,” Alam said.

In its third consecutive term, the ruling TMC is facing some anti-incumbency particularly due to unabated political violence and corruption. Though the discontent has not snowballed into a wave yet, a few percentiles of vote shift away from the party could become decisive.

There is an indication on the ground that minorities may not overwhelmingly rally behind the TMC this time unlike the 2021 assembly elections. A split in the minority votes between the TMC and the Congress in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections gave a few seats to the BJP in the minority-dominated Malda and North Dinajpur districts.

Indications of minorities no longer voting en-masse for one single party and instead opting for the strongest non-BJP candidate first came when a joint candidate of the Congress and Left, Bayron Biswas, won the byelection in the minority-dominated Sagardighi in Murshidabad district in March last year.

The trend continued in the panchayat elections in July that year. The Congress won over 1,000 gram- panchayat seats while the CPI (M) bagged around 600 seats in the district where Muslims constitute over 66 per cent of the population.

Muslims’ votes may not go entirely to the TMC this time in the absence of strong polarising issues such as the NRC-CAA.

The CAA rules have been notified by the Centre just ahead of the announcement of 2024 Lok Sabha schedules, but it has not become a major issue among the minorities of the state in this election despite the TMC’s best effort to rake it up in a big way.

A churning in the TMC’s minority votes ideally should have benefitted the BJP, but if the campaign pitches of the BJP leaders are any indication, then the party appears equally wary of the Left-Congress.

“The TMC, Left, and Congress workers are united in their fight against the BJP in Bengal. They just put up a show of battle among them,” Prime Minister Modi was quoted by a BJP leader as saying during a 40-minute conversation through the NaMo app with the party’s North Bengal workers earlier this month.

BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari, who had last year mooted the impracticable idea of a “mahajot” (grand alliance) with the Left to defeat the TMC is now terming the Left and the Congress as “vote katuas”, urging voters to consolidate in favour of the BJP against the TMC. Mamata Banerjee and other TMC leaders are also making similar appeals, alleging that the Congress and the Left have a tacit understanding with BJP.

In the last assembly elections, the BJP and the TMC leaders hardly made any mention of the Left-Congress in their election speeches as the electioneering was mostly bi-polar. The BJP put up its best-ever electoral performance in the state in the last Lok Sabha elections with the help of support from a large chunk of Left supporters.

The party is now apprehensive that a section of these voters may return to the Left fold again. The BJP’s vote-share has been constantly declining in the state from over 40 per cent it secured in 2019. It dropped to about 35 per cent in the 2021 assembly elections. It further dropped to about 12 per cent in the 2022 civic elections and 22 per cent in the panchayat elections. The Sanyukta Morcha (joint front) of the Left, Congress, and the Indian Secular Front collectively got over 23 per cent votes. This time, however, the ISF is not part of any alliance.

A momentum in favour of the Left-Congress alliance might change the bipolarity of Bengal politics, splitting the anti-TMC votes, ultimately benefitting the state’s ruling party.

Just as the TMC is fearing that the minority votes may not entirely consolidate in its favour, the BJP has similar concern with the Hindu votes. Almost all opinion polls are showing a neck-and-neck contest between the TMC and BJP

But a shift of three to four per cent votes away from either of the parties could drastically change the seat tally. That explains why the Left-Congress is keeping the TMC and the BJP on the tenterhooks. The outcome of the Bengal poll will largely depend on the vote share of the Left-Congress and whose support base they dent the TMC or the BJP.

Also Read: Gujarat Cong Candidate Goes Crowdfunding To Fund Her Poll Expenses

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