The ongoing Assembly election in West Bengal is becoming a fiercely close contest with each passing day. The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) headed by Mamata Banerjee, a warrior of several battles who made her way to the top in 2011 by toppling the Left after 34 years, is witnessing a fiasco both within and outside, thanks to a series of allegations and some suicidal moves by the top leadership.
Banerjee has also found herself at odds with the Election Commission and a major media house even as her party leaders are found making all sorts of irresponsible remarks, exposing the TMC more.
Left-Congress alliance is colourful to watch but is it viable?
On the other hand, the Left-Congress alliance is expecting things to work out in its favour and dethrone Banerjee. The major media house, which has declared an indirect war on the TMC, is also giving all sorts of hype to the Opposition's alliance, making a significant impact on the educated urban middle-class which has grown a deep sense of dissatisfaction with the TMC's way of ruling in the last five years.
The third side, BJP, is also making the most of the anti-incumbency against Mamata Banerjee to ensure that it also gains in the state where it has been a no force till now. Some BJP supporters are even hoping for a miracle, i.e., the saffron party coming to power in Bengal.
Post May 19, Bengal could witness worse days
But whatever might be the result as it will be seen on May 19, Bengal's political future doesn't look bright and there is every possibility of the state going under the President's Rule in a near future, particularly if Mamata Banerjee loses.
The biggest curse of Bengal's politics today is that it has no leadership of any credibility. The only face that Bengal had to show to the world was Mamata Banerjee but now in teh wake of several corruption charges, her image has been hurt, may be even beyond repair.
The Saradha chit-fund scam and the Narada sting operation issues coupled with the flyover collapse and the alleged connection of the syndicate have cornered Banerjee so much that she has been seen virtually begging for votes and also distancing with her party's leaders accused of accepting bribes.
Who is an alternative face to Mamata?
In the Left and Congress camps, no matter how much they come together to oust Banerjee, those traditional powerhouses in Bengal's politics have almost zero leadership today. The anti-establishment media is trying its best to make a leader out of Surjya Kanta Mishra, the Leader of the Opposition in the last five years and a former Left minister, but the soft-spoken gentleman from Narayangarh (160 kilometres from Kolkata) is not a leader who can be identified as a leader throughout the state.
A doctor by profession, Mishra doesn't possess inspiring oratory skills and is unlikely to lead the state in the chaos that might engulf the state in case Mamata loses. In fact, Mishra was one of the very few Left leaders who could manage to win in the 2011 polls when Mamata Banerjee tsunami had swept the state and became an automatic choice as the Opposition leader. But as an administrator of a state which is economically struggling and politically volatile, Mishra is very unlikely to succeed.
Ageing and arrogant Buddhadeb is no option for future
The ageing Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is no option either (he is not even contesting this election despite a string anti-incumbency). His arrogance is also another reason that restricts his acceptability in several constituencies. Like Banerjee, Bhattacharjee, too, was known for arrogant handling of the Opposition and Bengal has seen in the last 10 years that such high-handedness has its days limited in politics.
Nobody knows how Left and Congress will behave if the alliance comes to power
Moreover, nobody knows how the two traditional enemies in Bengal politics---Left and Congress---will behave if indeed there is an opportunity for them to come to power. Although the Left is the senior of the two partners, but the Congress also have a number of opportunist and ambitious leaders in its ranks who will not let go the chance of taking control. There are other parties in the Left Front who also have common areas under control with the Congress and those parties might not easily give in when it comes to nurturing their power bases as part of the government.
Bengal's past experience with coalition govts has not been happy
West Bengal has seen how coalition governments have failed in the past. Both the United Front governments formed in 1967 and 1969 fared pathetically and each phase saw the imposition of the President's Rule before the Congress returned in 1972.
What if Bengal goes the Centre way of 1977?
If Mamata Banerjee loses this election and the Left-Congress alliance comes to power, the situation will resemble that of the Janata government's taking over after the fall of Indira Gandhi in 1977 but its utter failure in living up to the expectations, paving the way for the Congress leader to return to office just after three years.
Mamata Banerjee is unlikely to do an Indira Gandhi if her alternative fails to deliver and the state may ultimately see imposition of the President's Rule if none of the sides succeed in keeping things in order. Even if Banerjee wins her second term, she will be in a much weaker position to rule smoothly.
BJP too disunited in Bengal and also lacks face and organisation
The BJP in Bengal is also too disunited, scattered and lacks a face and organisation to manage the state's affairs. It has offered nothing new to the state since winning 17 per cent vote-share in the 2014 general elections, thanks to the Narendra Modi wave. It has fielded a number of celebrity candidates like the TMC but those faces matter little for any substantial change on the ground.
In the final analysis, the post-poll situation in Bengal will not be calm irrespective of the winner and if the law and order situation deteriorates drastically (we are assuming that the state will have no effective leadership after this election), the central rule could be the only way out.