What initially appeared to be a cakewalk for Mamata Banerjee and her party Trinamool Congress (TMC), the 2016 West Assembly State Elections has now taken an intense turn. The ousted Left and beleaguered Congress have buried their differences to take a shot at ousting the incumbent Trinamool government in the state.
The BJP in all its might is also trying to make a position for itself in the state with Prime Minister Narendra Modi directly taking the fight to Mamata Banerjee. During PM's election rally in the state, dispelling the perception of a Modi-Mamata tacit understanding, the Prime Minister had tore into the Chief Minister. From Saradha to Narada, from starvation deaths in sick tea gardens, to infiltration from Bangladesh, from blasts in bomb factories to the flyover collapse, PM Modi targeted Banerjee belligerently on virtually every key issue.
The Narada sting operation, exposing many TMC ministers of corruption seems to have put a dent in the vote bank of the ruling party. If all of this was not enough, the collapse of the under-construction flyover in Girish Park area of Kolkata, which claimed 26 lives, posed to be big embarrassment for Mamata right in the middle of the elections. Allegations of indulging in corruption and questions about non-cognizance on the flyover are being hurled at the TMC by the Opposition and the common people.
So, it can be said that all these events have turned the mundane Bengal elections into an intriguing clash, with doubts being set in the Trinamool camp over easy walk into another five years in the government.
When Mamata dismantled the 34-year-old Left government, in 2011, from its seat of power in West Bengal, she was showered with accolades. She broke the Left juggernaut with a sweeping mandate. People of the state who were fed up with the misrule of the Left in Bengal, saw her as their 'knight in shining armour'. Everyone hoped for a new dawn in West Bengal.
However, due to Mamata’s stand on forcible land acquisition policies of the previous Left regime, big industries haven’t really turned up in the state. Moreover, Opposition’s allegations of reign of terror in ‘Didi’s’ regime with the police as an accomplice' has further dented its image in the state. The Sarada scam and the recent Narada sting have punctured a hole in Mamata’s clean image credibility.
But, it remains to be seen whether all of the above will make a difference to her electoral success. The campaigns of 'Didi' have always been packed with fire, but more recently it seems to have more ice than fire. The West Bengal Chief Minister’s election campaign has suddenly gone from confident to pleading. She has been forced to change her track from boastful to repentant.
In the recent local body elections, Mamata accepted that there have been few vital mistakes in the state under her rule but urged the people to continue supporting her party. “I am at fault. I am taking full responsibility of the errors. You can be angry with me but do not deprive Trinamool Congress of your blessings. Otherwise it will be difficult for me to move ahead”, Mamata had pleaded in one of her election campaigns.
By accepting blame for her government's failures and faults of the TMC ministers, Didi is hoping to deflect public attention and garner lost ground.
However in the past, Mamata has shown that she is a shrewd politician. The TMC chief has virtually risen alone from the time she broke from the Congress and formed her own party. She has never been afraid to take risks and this time too the party workers are hoping that Didi will pull the bunny out the hat.
What will be solace to Mamata is the fact that most of the predictions made by various opinion polls, have claimed that the ruling party is projected to retain power, with Trinamool Congress likely to win 160 seats in a House of 294. Notably, this will be 24 seats less than 184 the party had got five years ago, scoring a land slide victory.
On the other hand, Left Front and Congress, which are fighting the state under a strategic understanding this time, could win a total of 127 seats together -106 and 21 respectively. Importantly, the poll projects the BJP winning only four and 'others' three seats.
This means the Left Front's tally may go up to 106 seats, up from 60 seats five years ago, while the Congress share of seats may shrink from 42 five years ago to 21 this time.
As per another opinion poll, the Congress-CPM alliance are expected to win around 110 seats. The opinion poll was conducted in 118 constituencies with 14,450 respondents from March 8 to March 20. As per the survey, there is not much to differentiate between the TMC and the CPM-Congress alliance in terms of vote share.
While the former is expected to get around 45 percent votes, much higher than the 39 percent it got in 2011, the latter would likely get around 44 percent share.
Thus, even though there may have been certain niggles in recent times, it seems that Mamata may just sail through and storm back to power.