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HindustanTimes Sat,27 Dec 2014

Bengal voters see BJP as the only force that can fight TMC

Kumar Uttam, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, June 25, 2014
First Published: 12:58 IST(25/6/2014) | Last Updated: 13:02 IST(25/6/2014)

The BJP’s second biggest surprise success story in the Lok Sabha elections — after Uttar Pradesh — is Bengal, where it had never been a force despite having a few pockets of influence.

But while it had made perceptible efforts to push the big boys of UP politics — the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party — to the sidelines, the Bengal voter seemed to have walked into the BJP camp on his own.

And that’s precisely the reason Trinamool Congress boss and chief minister Mamata Banerjee looks so cagey about the BJP these days.

Its vote-share in the state has witnessed an almost threefold spurt, but what actually unnerved Banerjee is the fact that it’s slowly — but quite steadily — replacing the CPI(M) in the voter’s perception as the only force that can fight the TMC.

The BJP’s co-incharge for West Bengal, Sidharth Nath Singh, told HT: “In the assembly elections, it is going to be the Trinamool Congress versus the BJP. And Mamata (Banerjee) has sensed the people’s mood.”

But the TMC boss’ response has not been political, at least so far. She is depending largely on muscle power to stop the BJP. A report by a delegation — led by the BJP’s Darjeeling MP SS Ahluwalia — elaborated on the attacks by TMC men on BJP workers.

What helped the BJP pitch its tent in Bengal so suddenly? A TMC MP, who did not wish to be identified, said Banerjee’s aggressive minority appeasement policy led to Hindu consolidation in the bordering areas, where infiltration had turned into a political issue from a mere law and order problem.

Second, a large number of Left Front sympathisers, who were uncomfortable with the rise of the TMC and Banerjee’s brand of politics — but were disappointed with the communist party — added muscle to the BJP.

TMC insiders admit their main challenge is to contain the rise of the BJP, which plans to begin early preparation for the upcoming 82 municipal corporations and municipality polls.

“Any gain for the BJP in these local body elections would give them a big impetus ahead of the 2016 assembly elections,” the TMC MP said. And the BJP is definitely preparing for a dash.

Sidharth Nath Singh said his party would organise a series of events aimed at touching a chord with the party workers and electorates ahead of the assembly polls.


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