The four-cornered contest in which BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is the talk of the town makes these Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal an entirely different affair from previous elections.
Read: Last phase of LS polls in 17 seats in West Bengal on Monday
What was expected to be a cakewalk for the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) led by Mamata Banerjee has now emerged as an unpredictable affair as the state goes to the last phase of polling on Monday.
“No one can predict any numbers now,” said a senior TMC Rajya Sabha MP, reflecting the uncertainty in the ruling party.
Many senior TMC leaders, who did not want to be named, now doubt whether the party will be able to win 32 of the state’s 42 seats.
The Left Front, which is yet to recover from its 2011 assembly election debacle, still holds 41% of the total vote share in Bengal and is unlikely to see a further erosion of support. Unlike 2009, the TMC this time has to face the Congress which, despite its weaknesses, still holds fort in North Bengal and has some pockets of influence in the south.
Said state Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury, “Mamata Banerjee betrayed us and broke the alliance. Now she will see the results. A four-cornered fight, where even the BJP is a factor, will not work out for her. We will increase our vote share and hold our fort (6 seats).”
Added to this is the Modi factor.
Not only did the BJP’s PM hopeful create a stir after addressing about a dozen public meetings in Bengal, he also highlighted local issues like the Saradha-TMC relations and the issue of Bangladeshi infiltrators. All of this had an impact on people.
“The more Mamata Banerjee attacks us in her speeches and unleashes her police against our candidates, the more our popularity grows. We are sure of more than one seat. However, this can happen only if people are able to vote peacefully,” said state BJP chief Rahul Sinha.
The BJP believes that in border districts like Murshidabad, Malda, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas Hindu votes can be polarised in its favour.
BJP leaders feel the party will be able to garner a sizeable segment of votes and jeopardise the prospects of the TMC and Congress in a number of seats, notably Bolpur, Howrah, North Kolkata, Bashirhat, Jangipur and Raiganj.