West Bengal is set to face what could well be its most aggressively fought Assembly election, with the BJP hopeful of making a significant dent, come May.
In 2011, it was the Trinamool Congress, led by Mamata Banerjee, which stormed to power, putting an end to the 34-year-long Left rule led by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
Out of power for five years, can the Left front win back the electorate?
We track the latest developments in the run-up to the polls:
Netaji’s family has, in fact, had generations of politicians. “Netaji’s elder brother, Sarat Chandra Bose, was president of the Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee and helped form the Indian National Army,” said Sujoy Ghosh, a Kolkata-based historian who has researched extensively on the family. “Sarat Bose was a member of the All India Congress Committee too but resigned in 1947. He later led the Forward Bloc and formed the Socialist Republican Party.”
A Trinamool Congress music video, which claims that the face of West Bengal has changed in the last five years, has been played around 70,000 times across various digital platforms since it was released last night. TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee released the video on her Facebook page last night, saying, “I am very happy to share the new music video ‘The Trinamool Song’ for the forthcoming West Bengal Assembly elections”.
On March 17, 30 live bombs were recovered from a field in Sekendra in Murshidabad district by security forces on patrol — their fifth such haul, including from Malda, in the run-up to the Assembly polls beginning on April 4. The same day in Malda, Trinamool Congress leader Subodh Pramanik was arrested for possessing Rs 3 crore worth of opium and bombs. Just after midnight on March 7, bodies of two people, allegedly workers of the TMC, were found in Bharatpur in Murshidabad. Police said they were killed making crude bombs. Another person was critically injured in the blast. Police also recovered a stock pile of at least a hundred bombs nearby.
The Congress on Friday released the second list of candidates for the upcoming 2016 West Bengal elections. The list of 42 candidates was released by AICC General Secretary, Madhusudan Mistry. Earlier Congress has named another 43 candidates for the upcoming Assembly elections.
The two arch rivals in politics for decades – the Congress and the Communists – have finally reached a workable “understanding” in sharing seats in the West Bengal state assembly polls to put up a combined fight against the ruling Trinamool Congress. But for the moment, the two seem to have buried all their animosity as they say: “We are ready to do anything to oust this “despotic and autocratic” rule of the Trinamool Congress, and Mamata Banerjee.
Actor-turned-BJP leader Roopa Ganguly, who heads the party’s women’s wing in West Bengal, will face off against cricketer-turned-Trinamool Congress candidate Laxmi Ratan Shukla in Howrah North. Roopa Ganguly was among 194 candidates named in the BJP’s second list, released Thursday. The party has so far named 246 candidates; Bengal has 294 seats. Prominent among those in the second list is former state BJP president Rahul Sinha, who is now a national secretary. He will contest from Jorasanko in Kolkata. Another actor besides Ganguly is Suman Banerjee, who will contest from English Bazar, Malda.
Nearly a week after projecting state Congress general secretary Om Prakash Mishra as the party’s candidate for Bhawanipore, the seat which would be contested by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee on Wednesday said that it now wants Deepa Dasmunsi to contest from there instead.
Announcing its second list of 51 more candidates for the coming Assembly elections, state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury said Dasmunsi’s name has been sent to the All India Congress Committee, and post clearance she will contest from Bhawanipore constituency. The announcement was made minutes after a meeting of the state Congress with the Central Election Committee. Earlier on March 8, Chowdhury had announced that party state general secretary Om Prakash Mishra would be contesting from Bhawanipore and Mishra had even started campaigning from Tuesday.
The president of BJP’s state minority cell, Shakeel Ansari, on Tuesday quit the party to join the ruling Trinamool Congress, a month before Assembly elections in West Bengal. In a letter to the state BJP president, Ansari said that he was resigning from all party posts.
The final list of 43 congress candidates for West Bengal 2016 elections was released by AICC General Secretary, Madhusudan Mistry on Tuesday.
The BJP on Monday demanded the resignation of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the CPI(M) sought President’s rule in the state in the wake of a news portal’s “sting” operation that claimed TMC ministers and legislators received bribes for doing political favours.
Plagued by lack of leadership, the banned CPI (Maoist) has began a whispering campaign against the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal in a bid to regain its lost ground in the ‘Junglemahal’ region. The Junglemahal districts of Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore, which have nearly 40 seats, will go to polls on April 4 and April 11. Of these 40 seats, Maoists used to have a strong presence in near about 30 seats.
The state BJP announced on Saturday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was likely to address at least 10 public meetings across West Bengal towards the end of this month for election campaign. State BJP president Dilip Ghosh said they had sent a proposal to the central leadership “urging the Prime Minister to campaign in the state” for the Assembly elections. “We want Modiji to campaign from towards the end of this month. We have sought dates for 3-4 phases of the poll, which will cover approximately 10 rallies across various constituencies. We are yet to receive confirmation,” he told reporters.
Declaring a counter-movement against the “oppressive” Trinamool Congress government, Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra, who was arrested for circulating a cartoon of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on the Internet, announced Saturday that he will contest in the upcoming Assembly elections as an ‘independent’ candidate. Mahapatra, who is also the convenor of a human rights organisation, ‘Aakranta Aamra’ (we are the assaulted), will be contesting from Behala (east) against present mayor of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation Sovan Chatterjee.
Releasing the All India Trinamool Congress manifesto for the 2016 state assembly polls Friday evening, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee harped on her development agenda for a “New Bengal ”and at the same time came down heavily on the CPM-Congress alliance, describing it as “unholy, unprincipled.” The fight for the 2016 state assembly poll, Mamata said, has now boiled down to a fight between a “grand coalition of the people” on and the “unprincipled, unethical coalition of the CPM-Congress”.
# TMC government will follow a “zero tolerance” policy towards crime, especially women. As many as 65 all women police stations are coming up of which 30 are already functional.
# As per the National Crime Records Bureau statistics Kolkata is much safer than Delhi, Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan.
The BJP has decided to field Chandra Bose, grandnephew of Subhas Chandra Bose, against Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee in the upcoming West Bengal Assembly polls. BJP is trying hard to make its presence felt in the state where it had drawn a blank in the Assembly polls and the party believes that a high-pitched battle against the TMC chief could be of help. Bose said the change for which people had voted TMC to power in 2011 had not come and only BJP was capable of bringing it.
The Left Front Thursday announced the second list of its 84 candidates, which includes 11 seats that its possible alliance partner Congress also intends to contest in the upcoming Assembly polls in the state. While Left Front chairman Biman Bose said talks are still on and a solution would be worked out, state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said his party was “sincere” about a tie-up but is ready for a three-cornered contest if such a situation arises.
The sheer shock that followed the seemingly impossible election result that saw the Left lose their hitherto absolute and unchallenged 44-year-old command over the Jadavpur Assembly segment in 2011 hasn’t completely faded. It is now turning instead into a grim determination to wrest back the seat, once represented by former CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee from 1987 to 2011. The importance of this seat for the party, has at its heart the dichotomy of past and present that needs to be navigated by leaders, contesting elections for the first time in three decades, as an opposition.
With a single-point agenda to oust the ruling Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal, the state unit of regional parties such as Janata Dal (United), Rashtriya Janata Dal and Janata Dal (Secular) on Wednesday extended support to the speculated CPM-Congress alliance and said they were even ready to sacrifice seats to defeat TMC. The JD(U), which had pitched 71 candidates in the 2011 Assembly elections said talks were still on with the Left about the number of seats they would have to give up. “We are with the alliance as we want the removal of the TMC from Bengal first.”
# The Congress today announced the names of 75 constituencies from which it will fight in the coming Assembly election in West Bengal as per an initial seat-sharing arrangement with the Left Front.
The party, however, said that it was bargaining for at least 25 more seats.
“We have finalised 75 seats, which are free from any dispute or controversy. Discussions are on with the Left parties on more seats,” West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee president Adhir Chowdhury told newspersons here.
“We have expressed our desire to fight in 100-plus seats, as and when there is further development on this, we will announce that,” Chowdhury said.
# CPI-M announces list of 116 candidates for West Bengal 2016 elections. 68 new candidates, 16 women, 25 minority candidates’ name was announced by Biman Bose.
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.
Union Minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy on Sunday said the Election Commission should look into West Bengal Mamata Banerjee’s comment that Central forces would be there for three days only, but the state government would provide security for the whole year. “If Mamata didi has said this, then the Election Commission should take note of it, there should be free and fair elections,” Rudy told newspersons in Kolkata.
# An opinion poll carried out CVoter confirms that there are no surprises. The ruling Trinamool Congress, which has a brute sway in the state’s vast rural areas, is likely to continue in power, albeit with a reduced victory margin than 2011. The Trinamool will get 156 seats in a House of 294, with the CPM following up in the second spot with 114 seats. If the poll is to be believed, then the CPM has indeed pulled up its numbers with a Congress that’s rapidly losing seats. The BJP is expected to get 4 seats.
# Trinamool Congress will release their party manifesto for the upcoming election next Friday, said TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
# Tainted TMC minister Madan Mitra to contest elections at Kamarhati, even though he is in jail in the Sarada scam.
# Jagmohan Dalmiya’s daughter Baishali given a ticket in Bally assembly seat, dropping sitting MLA Sultan Ahmed
# Baichung Bhutia to contest West Bengal assembly election from Siliguri constituency.
# Apart from Bhutia, footballer Rahim Nabi, circketer Lakshmi Ratan Shukla will also fight election with TMC ticket.
West Bengal poll dates:
# 1st phase – 18 constituencies
Polling days – April 4, 11
# 2nd phase – 56 constituencies
Polling day – April 17
# 3rd phase – 62 constituencies
Polling day – April 21
# 4th phase – 49 constituencies
Polling day – April 25
# 5th phase – 53 constituencies
Polling day – April 30
# 6th phase – 25 constituencies
Polling day – May 5
The government is likely to amend two electoral laws to allow the Election Commission carry out a limited delimitation exercise in West Bengal to ensure voting rights to people who came to live in the country following exchange of enclaves between India and Bangladesh. The term of the 294-member West Bengal Assembly ends on May 29 and elections are likely to be held before that.
The West Bengal assembly elections will not see as much of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the Bihar polls did. He will address only seven to 10 rallies and refrain from a “negative” campaign, BJP sources said — an apparent lesson drawn from the rout in Bihar. The election will be fought on what the party is offering to the state and what the Modi-led government has done so far, they added.
In an exclusive interview with The Indian Express, Somnath Chatterjee, former Speaker of the Lok Sabha, said an alliance between the Congress and the Left Front was not a “political option but a necessity.”
The veteran former communist leader, who described his present status as an independent observer and a “political non-entity”, said that “in the present political context, it is extremely essential for all opposition forces to come together in bringing about a change in the government and in restoring a civilized democratic administration in West Bengal. ”
Two days after former West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee issued an open appeal to the Congress to join hands with the Left parties to oust Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress government, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury on Monday said there would be no front or alliance with Congress.
At a meeting in Singur on Saturday, former West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee issued an open appeal to the Congress to join hands with the Left Front to defeat Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress in the assembly elections due later this year. The thought of a broad coalition against the Trinamool has occupied the minds of a significant section of the CPM leadership in recent times; the appeal to the Congress by Bhattacharjee, who is also a former Politburo member, is the first from a public platform.
West Bengal Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury has claimed that party workers want to forge an alliance with CPI(M) in order to oust “undemocratic” TMC regime. But the senior Congress leader put the ball in party high command’s court, saying that the high command would take a call on the matter.