To the TMC’s satisfaction, there are no political alliances among Congress, BJP, and CPI(M) regarding seat-sharing.
Electoral outcomes in West Bengal reveal that anti-incumbency is not a very big factor. Unless a major threshold of unacceptability has been crossed and a viable political alternative exists, a substantial section of the electorate continues to support the dominant political party.
At present, the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) occupies that exalted position.
Political temperatures have risen across the country and in West Bengal, the stakes could be among the highest. The BJP is striving for greater political penetration of the state, even though its prevailing political heft in the state is negligible.
The Congress Party, meanwhile, is in an emaciated position. The Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front is a steadily shrinking political entity. Naturally, the TMC is not too concerned about anti-incumbency.
However, there is latent political opposition to the TMC. The Congress, BJP, and CPI(M) would try to make a dent in TMC’s political vote base, but to the TMC’s satisfaction, there are no political alliances among any of the three parties regarding seat-sharing. Talks of a possible alliance between the CPI(M) and the Congress fell apart amid mutual discord.
However the BJP, notwithstanding its negligible presence, could be a cause of some worry for the TMC. With its pan-India presence and strong commitment of its members, the BJP could throw a spanner in the TMC’s works.
West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supreme leader Mamata Banerjee’s alleged appeasement of Muslims is a major political issue for her opponents, particularly the BJP.
In a bid to introduce correctives, Banerjee has spoken of her identification with the best of Bengal’s culture and heritage, rejected charges of appeasement, articulated at length the inviolability of the rule of law, accorded high priority to national security and taken the narrative of holistic development to the heart of public discourse.
To the TMC’s credit, it has presided over improved conditions in rural Bengal. It has also helped provide better infrastructural facilities: roads, electricity and drinking water to the villages.
Plus, there have been social sector reforms. The state government has successfully initiated “Kanyashree”, which empowers the girl child through education; for it, Banerjee’s government has also won a UN award.
Farmers have been provided a measure of financial security in the event of flagging retail prices of agricultural products. The state’s food security system has been revamped.
Small-scale and medium scale enterprises have been encouraged. Banerjee has repeatedly expressed her government’s support for organised, accountable entrepreneurial investments.
Perennial inter-party factional wrangling, its attendant violence and intermittent charges of corruption against TMC leaders are negative attributes. However, the penchant for political high-handedness among some of them, often visible during the party’s first stint, looks like having decelerated for the moment.
A fortnight ago, Rahul Gandhi campaigned at Chanchal in Malda district. He ranted against the TMC. Whether he realises it or not, it would not be of much help to Congress Party’s Bengal unit.
There is grim irony in Gandhi’s criticism of the ruling TMC in West Bengal. Apart from Amethi, Gandhi is also contesting from Wayanad in Kerala. That state’s ruling CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front has interpreted it as a challenge to its candidate by Gandhi. In response, he has said that he would refrain from politically attacking the LDF.
If Gandhi can refrain from criticising the LDF in Kerala, then he could have withheld censuring the ruling TMC. Surely he knows that the TMC is much more opposed to the BJP than it is to the Congress.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, and other party leaders have also attacked the TMC.
They are keen to highlight security issues like infiltration and the necessity for a stable, coherent government at the Centre. But Banerjee and other TMC leaders are ready with their repartees.
Any notable trend regarding the outcome of the Lok Sabha elections is still elusive, but most appraisals indicate that the TMC has a relative political edge in its bastion.
If it manages to win a substantial proportion of the state’s 42 parliamentary seats, its role could be crucial in supporting a coalition government. Conversely, it could constructively oppose another BJP-led NDA government.