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It's advantage BJP, TMC in Bengal as Congress decides to go solo

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Kolkata, Mar 20: The West Bengal Congress has called off seat-sharing talks with the CPI(M)-led Left Front forcing a four-cornered contest in which the main contenders-the Trinamool Congress and the BJP-are in an advantageous position to consolidate the voters in their favour.

Mamata

The CPI(M)-Congress seat-sharing talks failed after the latter accused the Left of insulting it by unilaterally announcing 25 candidates in the state, which has 42 Lok Sabha seats.

West Bengal becomes a new addition to the list of states where the Congress failed to clinch a seat-sharing deal to take on the BJP.

Tthe political landscape in West Bengal has changed dramatically in favour of these two parties. While the TMC dominated the rural polls, the BJP emerged second in bypolls.

Both parties increased their vote share at the expense of the Left Front and Congress, which were decimated in every bypoll they contested separately since the 2016 Assembly elections, for which they had entered into an electoral understanding.

Lok Sabha election 2019: TMC won Balurghat, a Left bastion, for first time in 2014

The cross currents of the failure to clinch the opposition alliance will be felt directly in 15 seats spread across north and south Bengal, a TMC leader said.

"Although the breakdown of the opposition alliance has its benefits, it has taken away the buffer from us. Now the maximum anti-TMC votes would be bagged by the BJP, which might alter lot of equations in various seats," another senior TMC leader said.

"Had the alliance been there, the anti-TMC votes would have been divided between it and the BJP, which would have helped us," he told PTI on the condition of anonymity.

The TMC will now be directly pitted against the BJP in Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, Raiganj, Balurghat, Malda South in north Bengal; and Murshidabad, Krishnanagar, Ranaghat, Basirhat, Barrackpore, Asansol, Purulia, Jhargram, Bankura and Midnapore seats in south Bengal, sources in the party said.

The development has brought cheer to the BJP camp, which has emerged as the main challenger of the TMC in the past few years. The party will be in a better position to find favour with a sizeable portion of the refugee voters in the border districts following its efforts to bring in the citizenship bill.

Besides, a section of the Hindu voters, who are unhappy with the "appeasement politics" of the TMC, will support the BJP, said a leader of the saffron party.

The refugees have for the past several decades been a trusted vote bank of the Left.

The electoral history of Bengal shows that it is the ruling party and the main opposition which become the main beneficiaries in the event of a four-cornered contest.

In 2014, the state again witnessed a four-cornered election in which the TMC won 34 seats, the Congress four and the Left and BJP two seats each.

The TMC had then secured 39.05 per cent votes, the CPI(M)-led Left Front 29.71 per cent, while the BJP and the Congress had secured 17 percent and 9.5 per cent respectively.

The CPI(M)-Congess seat sharing deal in the 2016 state assembly polls had failed to halt the return of the TMC to power, but it was successful in stopping the march of the BJP to an extent. But the alliance fell apart after the poll as the CPI(M) decided to part ways with the Congress since its central committee vetoed it.

Since then the BJP has steadily taken over the opposition space in various by-elections and has emerged as the main challenger to the ruling TMC.

Lok Sabha polls will be held in the state in seven phases from April 11.

(with PTI inputs)

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