The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Opposition Left Front have announced their candidates for the seven-phase Assembly election in West Bengal starting April 4.
While the former announced names of candidates for all 294 seats on March 4, the day the election schedules were declared by the Election Commission, the Left declared its first list of 116 candidates on Monday (March 7).
The Congress is expected to announce its list in sometime since it is currently in the middle of a process of electoral understanding with the Left Front, if not an alliance.
Why is BJP still not releasing its candidate list for Bengal polls?
That leaves the BJP. The saffron party, which got 17 pe cent vote share in the state in the 2014 Lok Sabha election and also won an Assembly bypoll later that year, hasn't yet revealed its list of candidates. For many observers, the party has seen a steep fall since the Lok Sabha election and failed to produce any magic in last year's civic polls in the state.
It is said that their organisation is so poor at the moment that they have failed to hold rallies with a significant attendance. The central leadership has also expressed its displeasure over the state leaders' failure in nurturing a strong front in the state.
Remembering 'Howrah Model' in West Bengal electoral politics
But another section of analysts feels there could be more to the story. In 2013, the BJP had decided not to field any candidate for a Lok Sabha by-election in Howrah and the TMC went on to win the seat, beating both the Left and Congress. But why did the BJP give up an opportunity in a constiteuncy where it had polled 37,723 votes, a figure more than the margin by which the TMC had beaten its closest rival (37,392 votes)?
According to reports, the BJP had decided not to contest the bypoll at the last minute after TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee's confidant KD Singh had a 'coincidental' meeting with then BJP president Rajnath Singh.Former Bengal BJP chief Rahul Sinha had also admitted that the top brass conveyed its decision to not contest the bypoll at the last minute but he chose not to shed much light on the meeting between the two Singhs in New Delhi.
It was said that the move was made by the BJP to keep Banerjee, who was fighting the snowballing Saradha scam then, in a comfortable position so that things remained smooth between them ahead of the Lok Sabha election in 2014.
We had seen how Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out at Banerjee before and in the initial phases of the Lok Sabha election but the latter responded in sharp terms, sometimes even by making below-the-belt attacks.
The Howrah Model is considered an opposite to Left-Cong's Siliguri Model in WB
Perhaps Banerjee was publicly displaying a distaste for the BJP to secure her crucial minority votes.
'Howrah Model' as against the CPI(M)-Congress's 'Siliguri Model'
The BJP's decision not to vote in that bypoll is often called the 'Howrah Model', as against the 'Siliguri Model' whereby the Opposition CPI(M) and Congress came together to stop the TMC from coming to power.
Will BJP give TMC a respite in 2016 Assembly polls to reap benefits in future?
Is there any understanding between the TMC and BJP for this year's Assembly poll as well? Is the BJP going to field candidates in all 294 seats of the state? Reports said around 2,000 members of the party have expressed their desire to contest the upcoming polls but will the BJP find any gain in fielding Tom, Dick and Harrys?
A section is in favour of the two actors-turned-politicians from the state, Rupa Ganguly and Locket Chatterjee, to contest the election but the duo is not willing to contest for a number of reasons. In that case, will the BJP find it viable to allow the TMC have a free run in majority of the constituencies, expecting in return some support in the Rajya Sabha and also in the post-poll situation in 2019, when Modi will fight his first anti-incumbency challenge as the prime minister.
Bengal is a state where the BJP has little to lose; but it has much to gain at Centre
The BJP has been attacking the Left more than the TMC in issues related to the state, for example, the recent 'anti-national' protests in the Jadavapur University campus. For the BJP, letting go a state where it has very little to lose is not much of a loss, compared to serving its interest at the Centre, where much more is at stake.