30 seats in West Bengal, 47 in Assam vote in 1st phase of polls: Key points
West Bengal and Assam are all set to witness a fierce battle as they go to the polls in the first phase of assembly elections on Saturday. People across 30 assembly constituencies in West Bengal and 47 in Assam will cast their ballot to decide the future of the state. This is the first assembly election this year and the second after Bihar polls in November and December last year during the coronavirus pandemic.
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Here’s the battle to win or retain power in West Bengal and Assam explained
- In Bengal, chief minister Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress looks to retain a third term and guard its turf against the Bharatiya Janata Party, which showed an improved performance in the eastern state during 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
- The BJP has vowed to emerge victorious in West Bengal with a majority of at least 200 seats. The party has been campaigning with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for ‘ashol poriborton’ (real change). The party has upped its ante against the ruling TMC and has targeted it over corruption and unrest in the state.
- The state saw many political leaders jumping boats and joining the two main parties in the run-up to elections. Many TMC leaders, including Banerjee’s close aide Suvendu Adhikari and his father Sisir, switched to the BJP. The opposition party fielded Adhikari against the chief minister from the Nandigram assembly seat. Meanwhile, former union minister and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, who quit the party in 2018, joined the TMC earlier this month.
- In Assam, the 47 of 126 seats that vote today, the tea-tribe community that includes tea garden workers, former workers and their families, accounts for 17% of Assam’s population and its vote plays a decisive role in 35-40 seats.
- The BJP looks to retain power in the northeastern state, which was once known to be a Congress bastion. While the BJP is contesting 39 of the 47 seats in the first phase, its ally Asom Gana Parishad will contest in 10 seats (there is what is being called a “friendly contest” between the allies in two seats).
- The Congress is contesting in 43 seats and newly formed Assam Jatiya Parishad in 41 seats. In 2016, the BJP-AGP combine won 35 of the 47 seats, and the BJP alone won 27 seats — close to half of its total strength of 60 seats in 2016. The Congress won just seven seats.
- Political observers have said that the high-stake battle in the east will make it clear if the BJP continues to be influential despite the challenges faced recently, including the Covid-19 pandemic.
- “The results of the Assam and West Bengal election will have major reverberations across India. The BJP has had a rough few months, with the farmers protests and publicity around a democratic breakdown. It is seeking a strong electoral performance in these states to change the narrative,” political scientist Neelanjan Sircar of Ashoka University and the Centre for Policy Research told HT.