May 05, 2024
West Bengal Elections: Shifting Political Landscape

Subinoy Moulik

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MAYBE many people thought that the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in Bengal would also be in the familiar pattern. A mock war between PM Modi and chief minister Mamata will go on with both sides resorting to extremely hostile snides. Even if central forces are deployed by the Election Commission to ensure fairness at the booth level, the local areas will be dominated by Trinamool-backed miscreants.

Recent happenings have highlighted the corruption and misgovernance that is rampant in the state. Factors such as the involvement of BJP and Trinamool in electoral bonds, the High Court verdict on the school education scam, the Sandeshkhali incidents, and the increasing enthusiasm for Left candidates are shaking up the political landscape. Amidst all this, the Left Front has been trying to consolidate all opposition forces to take on the Trinamool-BJP combine.

The Left Front has been trying all along to consolidate all opposition forces to take on the Trinamool-BJP combine. So, it took some time to announce the final candidate list. Ultimately, the Left achieved  an overall electoral understanding with the Congress in the state. Based on that understanding, CPI(M) is contesting in 23 seats, Congress in 12 seats and Left Front alliance partners in 7 seats. The experience of panchayat elections shows that BJP's strength in the state is waning, and the Left is gaining strength.  It remains to be seen how the upcoming elections will play out, but it is more than clear that the old order is no longer firmly in place.

Like the last time, this year's election in West Bengal is in seven phases. The two phases that have already ended have brought out a few things worth noting. Firstly, indications of a new political equation are discernible in the hilly regions of Darjeeling. Secondly, despite the presence of central forces, threats, force and sporadic post-poll retaliatory violence have proved that the Trinamool-BJP does not want people to exercise their right to vote freely because it is virtually impossible for them to trust the electors.   Besides, the Election Commission appears quite incapable of ensuring voting rights in its totality in the state. Thirdly, in West Bengal as in the rest of the country, it appears that Modi-Shah has set communal polarisation as a key campaign target. That the EC is consistently overlooking the dangers of such propaganda in a state born out of Partition, is, to say the least, condemnable.


The third round of polling will be held on May 7. Polling will be held in four Lok Sabha constituencies of the state in the third phase. The constituencies are – Malda North, Malda South, Jangipur and Murshidabad.

CPI(M) state secretary Md. Salim is contesting from the Murshidabad seat. The poll campaign has intensified here through marches, small workshops, street corner meetings and public meetings. Congress and  the Left have jointly held   several well-attended rallies across the constituency. Rallies   addressed by CPI(M) state leaders Minakshi Mukherjee, Shatarup Ghosh, Dhrubajyoti Saha,  CPI(M) Murshidabad district secretary Zamir  Molla  and of course Md. Salim as well as state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury have evoked strong support from the masses. The key issues here as elsewhere are corruption, misgovernance, and violence.

The Trinamool had won in the panchayats by resorting to wholesale rigging. The workers are careful so that nothing like that happens this time. Here the BJP is irrelevant, the main rival is the Trinamool, whose policy of religious polarisation makes it clear that they too are beholden to the RSS. In the last several years, no such scheme of the central government has been implemented in this constituency. The Trinamool MP here was among those who remained absent during the CAA vote in parliament. Md. Salim has drawn up a five- year development programme for each assembly segment of the constituency. 

Every day, in temperatures that touch 43 degrees celsius, Md Salim travels from one village to another in an open jeep. He is accompanied by CPI (M) and Congress workers, some on bikes, some on foot. The number that was there when Selim's campaign first started, has gradually increased manifold. Hundreds of people are joining door to door campaigns and road shows with flags and banners.


West Bengal has eight seats in the fourth round of polls. They are Bolpur Baharampur, Krishnanagar, Ranaghat (SC), Burdwan East (SC), Burdwan Durgapur, Asansol and Birbhum. The ludicrous incident taking place in Ranaghat (SC)  Lok Sabha constituency this year is not new in West Bengal. The Trinamool candidate for this year's Lok Sabha polls from Ranaghat constituency is a member of the BJP in the assembly who has been seen supporting the Citizenship Amendment Act or CAA. Whispering campaign apparently rife throughout the region is that in Ranaghat constituency, BJP actually has two candidates. One is contesting on the Trinamool symbol. In the panchayat polls, the masses of this constituency overwhelmingly voted for the Left. The BJP and Trinamool were largely rejected. From the response we are getting from the intensive door to door campaign, the CPI(M) is hopeful of positive results, said Alakesh Das, leader of state CITU who is the CPI(M) candidate from Ranaghat.

In any discussion of the Krishnanagar constituency, a strange thing comes to the fore. Two years ago, Mukul Roy won the assembly election from Krishnanagar for the BJP. A few months later, he was seen joining Trinamool on TV. It was then that he was charged under the Anti-Defection Act. But the assembly speaker confirmed that he is still a member of BJP. Due to this hodgepodge, the Krishnanagar Assembly constituency is now virtually without an MLA. This has now become a common trend in Bengal politics.

The BJP has nominated a 'Rajmata' (queen mother) from the royal family of Krishnanagar for this year's Lok Sabha elections at a time when kings and queens are becoming the stuff of fairy tales the world over. The Krishnanagar Lok Sabha constituency has been a stronghold of the Left for a long time. Trinamool has been holding this seat since 2009. There is extreme discomfort within the Trinamool regarding outgoing MP Mahua Maitra. The Congress-backed CPI(M) candidate here is former MLA, trade union leader SM Sadi.  In Krishnanagar the core issue is the fight for livelihood and employment against Trinamool's corruption and false promises of development, and BJP's adulation of royalty and communal polarisation.  In sum Krishnanagar is witnessing a tough fight.

Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the leader of the Congress party in the last Lok Sabha, is the Left-backed Congress candidate for Baharampur in Murshidabad district. He has won from this Lok Sabha constituency five times in a row. Trinamool has fielded a so-called 'non-political' candidate, former cricketer Yusuf Pathan, against him. Despite protesting against 'political outsiders' visiting the state at other times, Trinamool had no qualms about fielding Pathan who hails from Gujarat in Baharampur. Locals, however, feel that the main purpose of stationing the star batsman here is to avoid factional conflicts between the Trinamool leaders of the district.

Left has exerted all its might to ensure victory of Congress candidates by defeating BJP and Trinamool in Baharampur seat.

On April 27, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat participated in the campaign of South Kolkata Lok Sabha candidate Saira Shah Halim and Jadavpur's Srijan Bhattacharya. A huge procession was organised from Golpark to Hazra Mor in support of Saira. And in support of Srijan, a night march was held from Jadavpur bus stand to Netajinagar. The presence of supporters of Left Front and Congress workers in these two rallies in the city was noticeable. The huge participation of youngsters added extra dimension to the rallies.


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