West Bengal election schedule: Who benefits and how

The reason for Mamata Banerjee's displeasure is three fold.

Written by Aniruddha Ghosal | Updated: March 9, 2016 6:18 pm
CM mamata banerjee, mukul roy, congress, BJP, TMC, bengal news File photo West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee

After the election commission announced a six-phase election in the state, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee didn’t waste any time in dubbing the move a “political conspiracy”. Careful not to directly criticise the EC, she promised to “fight the battle” of a six-phase poll held over seven days. All three opposition parties, have meanwhile, attacked TMC for criticising the EC.

But while the TMC has made it displeasure at, what they believe is an inordinately long election, abundantly clear, sources in the opposition, particularly leaders of the CPM and Congress, still trying desperately to forge a tactical alliance in Bengal, have said the present election schedule does suit them. For the BJP, once surging forwards in West Bengal, this allows time to make one last ditch effort to sort out the incredible internal chaos that has prevailed in the past months. Moreover, opposition party leaders explained that the presence of Central Forces will also prevent the ruling party from “influencing voters” and “managing booths”, allowing the electorate to vote “freely and without fear”.

State Elections 2016: The Schedule

At a press conference hours after the EC announcement, Banerjee questioned the “logic” of a single day polling in Tamil Nadu — a state with 234 Assembly seats in comparison to Bengal’s 294 — and a two-day poll schedule in Assam where there have been two major incidents of communal violence in 2012 and 2014 respectively. She called this “step motherly treatment” from the Centre.

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But the Left in turn have submitted a memorandum to the EC, criticising TMC’s “questioning of the jurisdiction” of the Election Commission while seeking “measures to rectify” the situation caused by the “partisian role” of the police, that puts “opposition in a largely handicapped situation”. It added that certain areas such as the tri-junction of Birbhum, Bardhaman and Murshidabad districts are sensitive in nature and constitute a hub of “widespread violence”.

The reason for Mamata Banerjee’s displeasure is three fold. Firstly, a six phase election, spread over seven days, with the first phase lasting two days is – the party believes – the same as a seven phase election and undercuts Banerjee’s claims that in her state there is “no violence”, definitely no “communal tension”. This will create an atmosphere of tension and fear and play directly into the hands of the opposition parties’ electoral campaign of “deteriorating law and order” in West Bengal.

Citing the decision to hold polls in two rounds in the first phase, in the 49 Assembly segments of the state’s areas vulnerable to Maoist extremism – Purulia, West Midnapore and Bankura districts, her party leaders claimed that this directly undercut Mamata Banerjee’s electoral campaign of ‘Jangalmahal Smiling’, based on her government’s success in controlling Maoist violence in the state.

Secondly, the deployment of central forces in each and every booth in Bengal – the visible presence of central police forces and the routine flag marches – will not only serve to increase, what the TMC believes is, a “false” sense of insecurity among the voters, but also hurt the state financially. “The state is already strapped for cash and taking a massive dent as far as our debt is concerned. In order to manage debt, we’d have to chose to stop development completely. This is a legacy of the previous Left Front government and we are left to bear with it. When Central Forces are deployed in the state, it is the state which pays for them, houses them and so on and so forth,” said a source close to the CM.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this allows all three opposition parties to right their ship. The TMC had initially wanted late elections, in order to allow time to announce a long list of upcoming developmental projects. But Mamata Banerjee changed her stand promptly after the chances of a Left-Congress tactical alliance became “likely”, said sources. Not only does the present electoral schedule give the Left and Congress to sort out the chinks of a tactical alliance, that has caused both controversy and sudden hope among their party cadre, but also gives them breathing space to concentrate party resources on different Assembly segments at different times.

Meanwhile the BJP has also got some breathing space. TMC has announced the entire list of their candidates, the Left and the Congress are about to do the same in the coming week – but the BJP is still in its early planning stages. A series of internal feuds, culminating with former state president Rahul Sinha being replaced with RSS pracharak Dilip Ghosh has delayed their election campaign. Already, many in the party believe, that this delay has seen the party completely throw away the gains that they had made in West Bengal during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. This, many party leaders admitted, was a glimmer of hope in an increasingly uphill struggle. “What the Left-Congress alliance has done is take the BJP out of the picture. TMC has their seats, but there is a chance now that the anti-Mamata vote will go to the alliance. When you add their respective traditional votes, it is a very grim picture for the BJP.”

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  1. H
    Haradhan Mandal
    Mar 7, 2016 at 4:38 pm
    Be it Congress, be it BJP - the local units of WB are treated like door-mat by their TALL 'National' leaders of N-W, W, N based and centered politics of India.This is more so after Mamata coming in picture. The CRESCENT BELT of 'N-W, W, W-N' gives the gravitas and Center of Gravity of actual Political Power in India. For Bengal CPM - they are subservient to their ENGLISH speaking 'BRAM comrades' of the south. Tapan Sikdar of BJP was the proverbial sacrificial goat to appease Goddess Mamata in NDA-1. Same with Local Congress leaders. For CPM leaders like Saifuddin Choudhary, he was thrown out as he did not recognize the 'BRAM comrades' of the south as his leader. This tradition is as old as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
    Reply
    1. A
      ARITRA KUMAR
      Mar 8, 2016 at 3:49 am
      Mamata's techniques of making false statements and dualism must end. People of West Bengal have to realise this, that she is a big lier who opens her mouth only to speak ic lies and to have her diet. She has brought West Bengal at the verge of destruction. The lefts in my consideration will only be the best option.
      Reply
      1. K
        Kumar
        Mar 7, 2016 at 5:24 pm
        In my opinion BJP-TMC alliance could be a very good option for Bengal. As I hear TMC has tried to make some improvements but without Central investments progress of the state is sluggish. With BJP-TMC alliance (with good understanding), central investments can flow in and there would be rapid progress of the state and it would be good for the country as a w.
        Reply
        1. G
          gaju
          Mar 7, 2016 at 8:10 pm
          Bjp will not get anything with tmc the only way for bjp is Hindu voters
          Reply
          1. B
            BharatK
            Mar 7, 2016 at 3:31 pm
            Bengal should give BJP a chance.
            Reply
            1. M
              mahesh
              Mar 7, 2016 at 9:21 pm
              Anyway, mamatha will win west bengal this time.
              Reply
              1. M
                M. Mukherjee
                Mar 9, 2016 at 8:27 am
                Aritra Kumar : CPIM is much more expert to tell lies and they have ruined the state during their 34 years of uninterrupted rule. Now they have come into alliance with the Congress only for their own interest and not for the interest of the state. But this time they will not be able to make the people foolish. Where is their slogan"TATA BIRLAR KAALO HATH BHENGE DAO , GURIYE DAO", WHICH WAS USED TO SHOUT BY THEM EARLIER. Why are their notorious leaders now begging alms from TATA? What a shame!
                Reply
                1. M
                  mani
                  Mar 10, 2016 at 5:39 am
                  win bjp
                  Reply
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