Bengal polls 2016: Why Murshidabad district will be interesting to watch

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West Bengal Congress president Adhir Chowdhury on Tuesday (March 8) said while releasing his party's list of 75 candidates for the West Bengal elections that they would have a friendly contest with the Left in the district of Murshidabad-the Congress's strongest base in the state where it has otherwise been decimated.

Is BJP interested in Bengal Assembly polls at all?

TMC's vote-share in 22 Murshidabad seats with and without Congress

NOTE: In 2006, Murshidabad had 19 Assembly constituencies while the number was 22 in 2011 following delimitation.

The constituency of Aurangabad ceased to exist and was replaced by two new seats--Shamsherganj and Raghunathganj. Besides, two news seats---Raninagar and Rejinagar---also came into existence in 2011.

Source: IndiaVotes

This statement by Chowdhury is quite significant ahead of an election in which the Congress and Left are contesting as friends and not foes, something that has not happened in Bengal ever in history.

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The two parties have come together to defeat the Trinamool Congress (TMC) led by Mamata Banerjee and although the Left has stopped short of calling it an alliance and more of an understanding, the state Congress is eager to do anything possible jointly to derail Banerjee's dream of winning her second consecutive term.

Anti-TMC plan looks little effective in Murshidabad because TMC is not strong there

But the scheme doesn't look simple to execute in Murshidabad, a heavily populated district with the largest Muslim population in the state. Reason: The Congress and the Left are the two main contenders for votes in this district with the TMC being an insignificant player here.

This is a state where the TMC has never succeeded in winning a substantial vote-share, the Mamata Banerjee factor notwithstanding.

Congress & Left are main contenders in Murshidabad; can they still fight it together?

So effectively, the plan of the Congress and Left to jointly defeat the TMC may come to a nought in Murshidabad for the TMC is hardly a force there, compared to some other parts. It will be interesting to see how the two anti-TMC parties manage their "friendly fight" in Murshidabad where they actually have nobody else to fight but themselves.

On the contrary, the consequence could go in favour of parties like the TMC and BJP if the Congress and Left, who otherwise almost bag the vote-share by half in this district, end up annoying their respective supporters because of the understanding.

In 2006 & 2011, either Congress or Left dominated Murshidabad

In the 2011 Assembly election, the Congress had won 14 of the 22 seats in Murshidabad while its ally in that election, the Trinamool Congress won one. The CPI(M), on the other hand, won five and the RSP, another Leftist force in this district, one. Results in a number of seats had seen a narrow gap between the winner and loser, proving how close the battles in the 'War for Murshidabad' can get.

In the 2006 Assembly election which the TMC and BJP had fought together, the Left had swept Murshidabad, winning 13 of 19 seats (before delimitation) while the Congress won three. The TMC-BJP alliance's highest vote-share in that district in that election was below 10 per cent, which speaks about their position in that state.

The TMC, on the other hand, needs Congress to do well in Murshidabad. Without the latter, it is no position to bag that district.

TMC has not won in Murshidabad in 2013 rural polls or 2014 LS polls

Even in the 2013 panchayat election in Murshidabad, the TMC finished poorly after the Congress and Left and accused Chowdhury's party of using string-arm tactics. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, too, Banerjee's singer candidate Indranil Sen was thrashed by Chowdhury, who bagged more than 50 per cent of vote-share. In Murshidabad parliamentary seat as well, the TMC finished third behind the CPI(M) and Congress.

Hence with the TMC being a weak force in Murshidabad district, which Banerjee is trying her best to make inroads but not with much success so far, will the Congress and Left's plan boomerang in the upcoming election?

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