Bengal polls 2016: Why April 17 phase will be an acid test for Mamata
The third phase of the ongoing West Bengal Assembly election (technically second) will be held on Sunday (April 17). This will be a crucial phase for the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and its supremo Mamata Banerjee, the politician who is fighting the battle of her life to save her own clean image.
Assembly Polls 2016 Full Coverage
Fifty-six constituencies in six districts [we are not considering Alipurduar as a separate district here since it was not there in 2011] will go to the polls in the next phase and the TMC have only 18 of those in its kitty. The Congress also has 18 while the Left Front has 15. The rest five belongs to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in the Darjeeling district and others.
Without Congress by its side, TMC not that strong in most of
the next 56 seats
For the TMC, the real concern is its partnerless situation. In the 2011 election which was historic for it saw the end of the 34-year-rule of the Left in Bengal, Banerjee's party had an alliance with the Congress and together, they won 36 of the 56 seats that are scheduled for election on April 17. Now, with the Congress joining hands with the Left against the TMC, the equation just goes completely against the ruling party as the Opposition now has 33 of those 56 seats. [What if Mamata loses the election this year?]
In 4 districts, TMC has just 7 of 39 seats
Of these 56 seats again, if we analyse deeper, the TMC has 11 of 17 seats in the two districts of South Dinajpur (five out of five it contested in 2011) and Birbhum (six out of nine it contested in 2011) while it has only seven out of 39 seats in the four districts of Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, North Dinajpur and Malda.
In those four districts where the TMC could win only seven of the 15 seats it contested in 2011 when the Mamata Banerjee wave swept Bengal, its the then alliance partner Congress won 16 of the 24 seats it contested. The Left won 11 of the 39 seats it contested in these seats. Against a united Opposition, the TMC trails 7-27 in these four districts.
Can TMC make inroads in seats where Congress and Left dominate?
The TMC contested 29 of these 56 seats in 2011 while the Congress fielded candidates in the remaining 27. This time, the TMC, which is going alone, has given candidates in all 56 seats but the question remains: Can it make any inroads in districts where the Congress and Left are big players? In the 2011 election, the Congress's influence in districts like Malda and Midnapore, which are still strongholds of the party which has otherwise been weakened across the state, played an instrumental role helping the TMC sweep and capture a lion-share of the votes.
This time, without the Congress, does it have any fair chance in those districts where the Congress, Left and regional outfits like the GJM have a big clout?
Without Congress, TMC is almost no force in central and North Bengal
History also shows that the TMC has never been a force in the central and northern parts of Bengal in elections. In 2006, Mamata Banerjee had contested the elections in alliance with the BJP and faced a humiliating defeat.
In 2006, TMC & BJP couldn't even finish second in any of seats that Congress won in 2011
If we take help of statistics again, the TMC-BJP alliance had contested in 20 of the 27 seats that were won by the Congress in 2011 (five were new seats in 2011 while the alliance did not have any candidate in two seats). The results were utterly disappointing for Banerjee's party/alliance. Either of the TMC (15 of those 20) or the BJP (rest five) couldn't even finish among the top two positions which were dominated by the Congress and Left.
In 2006, TMC-BJP alliance's vote-share in these 20 critical seats was a poor 7 per cent
In terms of vote-share, the TMC's highest figure was 20.9 per cent in Alipurduar while the BJP's best result was in Madarihat (20.7 per cent). Overall, Banerjee's alliance could muster a poor seven per cent vote-share in these 20 seats.
Even in the old seats which became extinct and new seats replaced them in 2011, the TMC did not do any better [for example, third in Karba and Kaliachak constituencies in Malda district]. In Daarjeeling, the TMC won its only seat in Siliguri but it is known to be a bastion of the Congress and Left (since 1952, the Congress has won this seat six times while the Left has won eight times).
The much talked-about Siliguri model in the state politics also shows that the Congress and Left will not waste any time to uproot the TMC from this seat.
For Baichung, it's a mountain to climb in Siliguri
Banerjee has banked on former ace footballer Baichung Bhutia's charisma to do the job for her but it will not be easy for Bhutia to beat four-time MLA and former 'chief minister of North Bengal' Ashok Bhattacharya this time. The erosion in the ranks of the TMC in Siliguri earlier this week will make things worse for Mamata Banerjee. [Baichung richest candidate in Phase 2]