A day after the Lok Sabha results threw up a few surprises in Bengal, there are enough indications that the next assembly elections, scheduled in 2021, will be the real game of thrones, reports The Times of India.
Going by the final figures, Trinamool Congress has won 164 of the state’s 294 assembly segments, but the BJP is not too far behind, at 121.
Even at the five Lok Sabha seats in and around the city proper — Kolkata South and North, Jadavpur, Barasat and Dum Dum — that elected Trinamool Parliamentarians, BJP candidates were leading from five assembly segments: Rashbehari, Chowringhee, Bidhannagar, Rajarhat-Gopalpur and Habra.
State power minister Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, fire services minister Sujit Bose and food minister Jyotipriya Mullick couldn’t deliver a lead for the party in their own segments, even though state sports minister Arup Biswas has improved the party’s tally in his, Tollygunge, and in the adjacent Jadavpur.
Combine this figure with the fact that Congress won only nine assembly segments and the Left none, and the indications are clear: the fault lines are now obvious, and the 2019 polls could well be a game-changer for Bengal politics. For Trinamool, however, the next immediate challenge could come earlier, in the form of the civic polls, scheduled for 2020, with several party organisers privately admitting that the BJP led from many city wards.
The ruling party is now busy crunching numbers — from the booth-wise tally to take a micro view, down to the nitty-gritty of the ward-level — before a review meeting at party chief Mamata Banerjee’s Kalighat residence on Saturday. The scene in the districts is even worse. The once invincible Trinamool was trailing in assembly segments represented by senior ministers Malay Ghatak, Gautam Deb and 11 others.
This, combined with the Congress’s poor show and the Left’s complete decimation, will no doubt step up the pressure on Banerjee, especially when one remembers that Trinamool’s vote-share suffered major dents in as many as 10 Lok Sabha seats — the highest in the Arambag Lok Sabha constituency, where Aparupa Poddar won by a razor-thin margin of 1,000 votes.
Party leaders are wary of this ‘Arambag syndrome’, which was evident in a few other assembly segments, especially in Bijpur, under the Barrackpore Lok Sabha seat, which party man Dinesh Trivedi lost to Arjun Singh, also by a thin margin.
On Friday, Trinamool secretary-general Partha Chatterjee cracked the whip on Trinamool-turned-BJP leader Mukul Roy’s son Subhrangshu Roy, the Trinamool MLA from Bijpur. Prior to this, Subhrangshu told the media that he was thinking of starting a new innings in politics. Trinamool leaders are keeping a close watch on the ‘gaddars’ —both turncoats and double-crossers — who have done significant damage both from outside and within. This includes people like Arjun Singh and Saumitra Khan, who have won polls after dumping the party.
BJP leader Mukul Roy, another person whom the party sees in a similar light, stepped up the heat on the Mamata Banerjee government. ‘The government has lost its moral authority to rule,’ he said, mincing no words. The Bengal BJP is planning a huge victory rally in Kolkata in a few days.
State leaders have already got the nod from BJP president Amit Shah, state president Dilip Ghosh said. ‘We are not scared of Trinamool. We have got the numbers and are ready to combat Trinamool miscreants if they attack our rally on that day,’ he said.
What worries Trinamool the most is north Bengal and Jangalmahal, where it has suffered the worst. People in the Hills have rejected Trinamool’s Mamata’s dalliance with Binay Tamang; voters in the erstwhile Maoism-torn belt of Jhargram, Purulia, Midnapore and Bankura sent out clear signals that things haven’t improved for the party since the 2018 rural polls.
But the party isn’t giving up yet. ‘It won’t be prudent to extrapolate Lok Sabha election results in assembly segments. They are two different elections. The issues are different and also the campaign,’ said Trinamool leader Firhad Hakim. ‘We will take stock of the situation at the party level. Results will change in the 2021 assembly polls.’