As usual, violence has gripped West Bengal ahead of the final phase of the Lok Sabha election on Monday. The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) has been accused of unleashing a reign of terror against the Opposition and the intensity has gone up since the third phase.
There is reason for Banerjee to feel rattled. The nature of the Lok Sabha election in West Bengal this year has undergone a change in the dying stages and the TMC has had little time to adjust to it and hence the desperation and frustration.
But what was the change that made Banerjee and her party so desperate half-way into the polls?
The answer is Saradha. This is perhaps the first time that corruption has evolved into a major issue in a big election in West Bengal. Generally, poll violence as a show of strength by the ruling party marks elections in West Bengal, whether local or national, but this is the first time that a scam in the state has snowballed into a major national issue and threatened Mamata Banerjee's honest image, the biggest asset that the TMC has.
The ruling party hence is desperate to retain the number of seats it had won in alliance with the Congress in 2009 and unleashed violence to stop the Opposition from snatching shares of its votes.
This is the first time that an election in Bengal has graft as a major issue
Banerjee is feeling the pinch all the more because not only it has no any alliance this time but also because the three opponent parties, the BJP, the Congress and the Left have relentlessly attacked her on the question of corruption. Didi knows very well that if her party fails to even retain its tally of 2009, forget raising it further, then not only her dream of playing a national role will evaporate but her position will be weakened vis-a-vis her opponents. The threat to her image of honesty will also become stronger if the TMC fumbles in this election and with two years to go before the next assembly polls in West Bengal, the equations won't be favourable for Banerjee.
The areas in West Bengal where election took place on May 12 are home to a large number of people who were affected by the Saradha chit fund scam. The TMC performed badly in a number of panchayats in the two 24 Parganas and Nadia districts last year and the Opposition is confident that fair election in these parts in the Lok Sabha election will also lead to the same result. This perhaps makes the ruling party more desperate.
The post-May 16 West Bengal will be an interesting political laboratory. With the Congress and Left looking exhausted and the TMC struggling to retain its position, the rise of the BJP seems to be a logical conclusion in the state. Mamata Banerjee has applied the accelerator to the fullest to delay what can be called Paribartan Part II.