West Bengal is the new battleground of national politics. Though Assembly Elections are also due in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry, the way it’s unfolding in West Bengal with an everyday war of words, is an indication that no side is willing to cede even an inch of ground to its rivals. While the Bharatiya Janata Party under the leadership of party president J P Nadda and Home Minister Amit Shah is reaching out to every section of Bengal, the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress has time and again termed BJP an outsider in the state. During her rallies, Banerjee had said that BJP is a party of Delhi and Gujarat.
However, the way the ‘outsider’ party has been denting TMC’s fortress one at a time has made the ruling party wary of the BJP’s expansion. The TMC is also worried that the BJP might use the outsider plank to solicit non-Bengali votes.
Bengal has a huge chunk of migrant workers, a majority of whom have settled in the state over the decade and play a crucial role in every election. According to reports, non-Bengalis constitute around 15 per cent of the state’s total electorate. It plays a prominent role in and around Kolkata as it’s a major hub employing them. The non-Bengali vote-bank accounts for about half of the population in Kolkata and its neighbouring regions.
Then there are many migrant workers involved in the tea production business and also some in tourist destinations like Darjeeling. There are over 40 assembly constituencies in and around Kolkata, comprising South 24 Pargana and Howrah, that can play a crucial role by helping BJP put up a tough competition to TMC. These also consist of urban areas which are often considered a stronghold of BJP.
With Home Minister Amit Shah visiting Vishwa Bharati University and PM Narendra Modi invoking Noble Laureate Rabindranath Tagore as well as Subhas Chandra Bose time and again, BJP has been giving a clear signal that it’s aware and sensitive towards Bengal’s cultural roots.
The BJP has also been ridiculed by TMC for not having Bengali leaders to fight the election. But in the recent past, many TMC leaders have switched sides with BJP and are now openly daring Mamata Banerjee and her policies.
West Bengal has no major infra projects in the pipeline except Metro (which is owned by Centre). The collapse of industries like jute and ports in the last decade has also forced its unskilled/skilled residents to move towards southern states like Kerala and Andhra Pradesh in search of better livelihood opportunities.
“In our pre-poll surveys and election campaigns in different parts of the West Bengal, we have observed that voters are only looking for candidates who can bring the development to their area. The population of the state is tired and disappointed with the poor basic infrastructure such as the condition of roads, lack of jobs, drinking water facilities, and the list goes on. They are now looking beyond the political agendas and power politics, and for them, the outsider issue is weaker than the development agenda” Vivek Singh Bagri, Political Strategist & Founder LEADTECH.
Very few of those who had left the state return home during the poll season to cast their votes. This is also going to make a dent in TMC’s vote bank. The development plank of BJP might strike a chord with locals to jolt the TMC in the upcoming Assembly Elections.