The first opinion poll on this year's Assembly election in West Bengal jointly conducted by ABP Ananda and Nielsen has hinted at an exciting contest, given the fact that some things fall in place for the Opposition Left and Congress, who have inched closer to a formal alliance for the election.
According to the opinion poll, the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) will get 182 seats if there is an alliance between the two main Opposition parties, which is likely to get 107 seats. If there is no alliance, then the TMC's seat number will go up to 197 while the Left and Congress's tally will be 74 and 16, respectively. The BJP will not get any seat, said the survey which was carried out between January 29 and February 10.
Just 1% difference in vote-share predicted, which makes it an interesting contest
But the contest looks far more loser in terms of vote-share. If there is an alliance of the Opposition parties, the TMC's share of votes will be 44 per cent, just one per cent more than that of the alliance. This makes the plot very interesting. Of that 43 per cent, 37 per cent will be of the Left, which means that the former rulers of the state are slowly regaining their lost ground, thanks to a strong anti-incumbency against the Mamata Banerjee government.
Source: ABP-Nielsen opinion poll
And we need to remember that these figures were from the days when the Congress and Left were still far from the idea of formalising an alliance. If that materialises, the figures are likely to undergo more changes.
The close equation will be depending on what happens from now till the time of the election likely to be held in April-May. It is not without a reason that the TMC has approached the election authorities to hold the polls as early as possible.
The BJP's predicted vote-share of 6% could make things tricky for the Trinamool
According to observers, the ruling party is feeling apprehensive about a probable alliance of the Opposition parties and doesn't want to give them much time to prepare for the final battle. The observers also feel that the way some leaders of the TMC, including its ministers, are speaking in the public (one top minister recently said the Left and Congress were aiming to harm Mamata Banerjee) there is a clear sign that they are feeling panicky. Hence, it will all depend on how both sides go about from now on.
But the alliance also needs to find a face to project as an alternative to Mamata
The alliance, if there is finally, will also have its share of hard work if it aims to dethrone Mamata Banerjee, something which is seen by the Left as an urgency. The alliance has to project a face and can't just delay that important aspect till post elections.
Mamata is still the face that the people of Bengal identifies with its politics, irrespective of the highs and lows, and to beat her, an equally hard-earned reputation is required. That task will not be easy as former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is ageing and doesn't have the mass base like the TMC supremo. If the alliance is in place, both sides will need to give it a serious thinking.
Central leaders of both Congress and CPI(M) need to display unity before supporters, just like Nitish and Lalu did in Bihar
In fact, the central leadership of both the Congress and CPI(M) will have to chip in now to publicly display their solidarity. For the Gandhis, such a move might not be too easy for they would aim 2019 Lok Sabha polls which might need support of Mamata more than anybody else, but still for this state election, the top leaders need to come together on an open stage to boost their supporters. Just like Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar had done in Bihar a few months ago to stop Prime Minister Narendra Modi's chariot.
The BJP's 6% predicted share could be the game-changer
A game-changing move can, however, originate from the BJP and other smaller forces to turn the tide in favour of the anti-Mamata alliance. The BJP is expected to have six per cent vote-share and it will be from areas where the goons of the ruling party had run berserk in the recent past. These voters could shift their allegiance to the Congress-Left alliance if they sense that Mamata is on a weak platform. In Bengal, party politics is driven more by an urge to ensure survival than factors like ideology, religion or caste.
The general mood against the TMC has a common take on the party's rough handling of the opponents and that could unite the 56 per cent vote share (more precisely, the 13% besides the alliance share) that the TMC doesn't get. If the anti-Mamata alliance can capitalise on that factor and turn it into seats, then the TMC could be in a real problem.