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West Bengal: Kingmaker?

  • Published at 01:53 pm May 18th, 2019
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Narendra Modi and Mamata Banerjee File Photo

Only a few seats in West Bengal are still up for grabs

As the world’s largest election comes to a close in India, all eyes are on West Bengal – the third-largest state in the Indian Union – which might just decide who the next prime minister is going to be.

The clashes between the BJP and the Trinamool Congress have reached a breaking point in West Bengal, and the vandalism of Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar’s bust has only sparked one of many fires. The Election Commission of India has also reduced the campaign time by one day, and relieved Home Secretary Atri Bhattacharya of his duties, citing “interference.”

The unprecedented intervention on part of the Election Commission, especially during the elections has raised the ire of Trinamool leaders, prompting Mamata Banerjee to say: “The EC is now filled with BJP and RSS fixers.”

In the last elections, the BJP gained 73 out of 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh, 27 out of 29 in Madhya Pradesh, 10 out of 11 in Chhattisgarh, and sweeping each and every seat - 25 in Rajasthan, 10 in Haryana, and all seven in Delhi. The landslide majority helped the BJP have a majority in the parliament. But this time around, it is has almost no chance of a repeat performance.

According to political analysts, BJP stands to lose at least 30 more seats in Uttar Pradesh and the number is likely to increase as Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party have allied to combine anti-BJP votes.

Concurrently, sentiments are running strong against BJP in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh after the Congress regained its footholds only a few months ago. 

The BJP has already eyed the eastern states and the Northeast for their 90 seats, hoping they can make up for the losses in the heartland of India. But the handful of seats left to be contested in these region are in West Bengal.

Hence, West Bengal is the final battleground.

Early on during Mamata’s career, her sole goal in life was to remove the Left Front from power in West Bengal. It has been eight years since she realized that dream. She has made little effort to conceal her aspirations to become India’s prime minister as the next stage of her political evolution.

Mamata’s confidants say she steadfastly believes the 2019 elections have given her a remarkable opportunity to be the next PM. If the BJP bags between 100-150 seats, and Congress is limited to less than 100 seats, a savvy political operator like Mamata might just be able to form a third coalition, a federal front, with her in the lead.

In all her rallies, Mamata has reiterated that she wants all 42 seats in the state. 

Kalyan Goswami, a political analyst from Delhi, said: “Who will be the prime minster of India? The answer to this question might come from West Bengal this time. It may sound strange, but that is the political reality.”

The violent clashes and vandalism in the state during BJP’s campaigns have only served to draw battle lines.

The state has never before been so crucial to deciding the fate of India.