Elections 2014: Mamata wave all the way in West Bengal?
The Lok Sabha election schedule is out, and in West Bengal voting will take place in five phases between April 17 and May 12.
The contest will be for 42 parliamentary constituencies, and if the mood on the street as judged by opinion polls is anything to go by, then Mamata Banerjee is still riding on the momentum that brought her to the Writer`s Building.
The West Bengal Chief Minister`s Trinamool Congress is projected to bag anywhere between 32 to 35 of the total 42 seats – a near sweep.
If Mamata pulls off this performance, her TMC could emerge as the third largest party nationally after the BJP and the Congress and will play a key role in deciding who forms the next government at the Centre.
It would not be wrong to say she will also have a go at the top job in the South Block if the situation permits. She has not denied harbouring the desire to become the PM, only saying "people will decide".
As of now, Mamata has not sealed any alliance. She has been speaking against the Congress, the BJP (and Narendra Modi), and the Third Front, which is a combination of 11 parties including the Left, Samajwadi Party, JD(U) and JD(S).
So, it would be hard to guess, at this stage, which way would Mamata go if the need arises for any coalition to seek her party`s support.
At present she is angry with even Anna Hazare, who endorsed her for the PM`s post as “an individual”. Anna skipped a recent joint rally with the WB CM in Delhi, and the latter said she doesn`t care if anybody supports her or not.
As regards candidates, Mamata`s party has this time relied on actors, singers, footballers and women to improve its tally. The party has given tickets to 11 women; among them three are Bengali cinema actors and one, a well-known theatre personality.
Further, the TMC has also renominated 16 sitting MPs, including former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi who had earlier appeared to have fallen out with the TMC chief.
The Left Front, meanwhile, has a tough task at hand. It has been facing severe drubbing in all elections since the 2009 General Elections and opinion polls have predicted a rout this time as well.
It is skeptical about its chances to the extent that the formation has dropped winning candidates of five seats out of 15 which it had won last time.
Of the 42 candidates announced (CPM is contesting 32 and the remaining allies 10 seats), 26 are new faces. It has also banked on the younger lot by giving 10 tickets to candidates who have not yet touched 40. The youngest of the lot is just 25 years old - Sheikh Ibrahim Ali from the Tamluk seat.
Further, 12 Muslims have been given tickets by the Left Front, considering 27% of the state`s voters are Muslims. Six women are also on the candidate list.
The Congress, meanwhile, is going solo this time after the TMC ended its alliance with the national party at the Centre and in the state.
The party will be looking to retain its six seats and secure more, but may find it difficult to withstand the Mamata wave in the state.
The newbie Aam Aadmi Party, too, is not expected to make any big gains in the state, and is restricting its battle to just six to seven seats.
But the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is tipped to make the next government at the Centre, is seeing its popularity rise in the state. Though never a key player in West Bengal, the BJP this time around is confident of retaining its Darjeeling seat, after the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha decided to support the party in the state. The BJP has fielded SS Ahluwalia from there, after Jaswant Singh expressed desire to shift base to his home state Rajasthan.
The party is also hoping that the Narendra Modi wave yields more seats in West Bengal as well, traditionally a stronghold of the Left and now TMC. It is probably this reason why the party has given the Hooghly ticket to its face on TV Chandan Mitra. Other key BJP candidates include singer Babool Supriyo (Asansol), retired IPS RK Handa and renowed magician PC Sorcar Jr.
In the end, in West Bengal it will be a fight between two waves – the Modi one and the Mamata one. Let`s see which one turns out to be stronger.