Tough Trinamool-BJP contest likely at some seats in W Bengal

Kolkata: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s party Trinamool Congress might face its toughest poll challenge yet against the BJP in the state in the ensuing Lok Sabha elections despite its track record, electoral supremacy and a good record in development.

Trinamool won 211 of 294 seats in the 2016 assembly polls. Tough Trinamool-BJP contests are likely at seats like Alipurduars, Cooch Behar, Balurghat, Jalpaiguri, Raiganj, Bishnupur, Malda North as well as Darjeeling and Asansol – the last two are in the BJP’s kitty – according to political observers.

Rabindra Nath Ghosh, North Bengal development minister and senior Trinamool leader, rejected the possibility of a close fight with the BJP. “In the 2016 Assembly polls, BJP vote share slipped to 10.16% while Trinamool got 44.91% of the popular votes in Bengal,” he said.

Citizenship bill could be a major political plank

The controversial citizenship amendment bill is one of several factors playing out in the poll run-up. The BJP-led government at the Centre brought the Bill to give Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

According to political analyst Subhankar Sinha in Siliguri, the bill has a lot of relevance for north Bengal. Over 90% Bengali Hindus in north Bengal have roots in Bangladesh. For them, it’s a big issue, he explained.

Historian and author Debabrata Chaki also expressed similar views saying the citizenship bill could be a major political plank.

Besides observers feel the Congress has no base left in W Bengal while the Left is a marginal force.

In the 2014 general elections, Trinamool increased its vote share in Bengal to 39.35% from 33.1% in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. The BJP won 16.84% votes in 2014 against 6.14% in 2009. The Left parties and the Congress suffered a sharp decline in support base.