rime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to begin campaign for the seven-phase Assembly election in West Bengal from March 26. A number of other top leaders of the BJP will also campaign in the state but Modi will be the man spearheading the campaign since the party hasn't picked any chief ministerial candidate for the election.
Will Modi go after Mamata?
Now, the question is: What will be Modi's approach to this election and the campaigning? Prior to the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Modi, who was the BJP's prime ministerial candidate then, had initially taken a soft approach towards Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo and state's Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, perhaps to keep the doors of a post-poll election open.
In 2014, Modi had reached out to Mamata but latter attacked him
But Banerjee had taken a completely opposite route to attack the BJP leader, sometimes even below the belts. This continuous attack from Banerjee saw Modi correcting his course a little to reply to the former's jibes, though he didn't match the aggression in terms of the body language and the vocabulary.
Modi had addressed six rallies ahead of the Lok Sabha election two years ago. In this Assembly election, he is expected to address seven rallies in three phases. But what will be his approach in these rallies? He will cetainly take a strong dig at the Left-Congress electoral understanding in this election for both those parties are known foes-politically and ideologically. But what about Mamata Banejee? Will Modi attack her too?
BJP has a stake now not to get identified as close to Trinamool
There are more reasons for the prime minister to target Banerjee this time, unlike the previous occasion. As talks have proceeded on the proposed Left-Congress electoral understanding (popularly known by the term 'Siliguri Model' since such an idea was first put to use in Siliguri to keep the TMC out of power), speculation is also rife over a probable execution of the 'Howrah Model' (indicating a probable TMC-BJP understanding).
This has put both the TMC and BJP in a lot of discomfort.
For while the TMC hates to be associated with the 'communal' BJP ahead of an election which will see a sizeable Muslim population vote, the BJP is not very keen to see its name being taken with the Banerjee regime which will face its first-ever anti-incumbency test.
The saffron party is desperate to prove such theory wrong so that it gets the blessings of the voters who are disappointed with the TMC and want a change in guard. The propaganda about a TMC-BJP understanding could see Modi's party bearing the brunt of the anti-incumbency factor against Banerjee.
BJP has fielded Netaji's kin against Mamata
The BJP's decision to field Chandra Bose, the grand nephew of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose against Banerjee in Bhabanipur, where it did well in the last Lok Sabha election, also hints at its strategy to attack the TMC chief so that the voters do not regard it as the latter's ally in disguise.
A few months ago, BJP leaders like Shah and Siddharth Nath Singh, its former in-charge of Bengal, were seen attacking Banerjee in a sharp language in connection to the Saradha scam. But the party could not gain much through that strategy as the TMC emerged victorious in the last civic polls.
The progress of the Saradha probe also lost its edge gradually and Banerjee was also found not uttering much on the recent fiasco in the JNU even as the BJP-led NDA faced a serious flak over its handling of the matter.
It was said that the probe into Saradha scam was softened in lieu of a backing in the Rajya Sabha where the NDA is weak in numbers.
Against this background, it will be interesting to see how Modi balances his approach towards the TMC in the campaign for the upcoming polls.