Shiv Sena gets ambitious, to contest 100 seats in Bengal assembly polls
- The Shiv Sena which is a marginal force in West Bengal, is aiming to punch much above its weight.
Maharashtra’s ruling Shiv Sena, a party Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee often describes as her national ally against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), announced on Sunday evening that it will contest the coming assembly polls in West Bengal.
“So, here is the much awaited update. After discussions with Party Chief Shri Uddhav Thackeray, Shivsena has decided to contest the West Bengal Assembly Elections. We are reaching Kolkata soon...!! Jai Hind, Jai Bangla!” Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut tweeted Sunday evening.
Incidentally, the two slogans at the end of the tweet are used by Banerjee at every rally.
Though a marginal force in Bengal politics, the Shiv Sena has an organisation in the state and it contested local elections several times in the past but did not see much success. This time around, the party’s main focus will be to contest at least 100 seats in north, south and the western districts where the BJP has made inroads, said Shiv Sena’s Bengal leaders.
“Our party has decided to contest at least 100 of the 294 seats. Uddhav Thackeray, Aditya Thackeray, Anil Desai and Sanjay Raut will come to Bengal and campaign. The details of their public meetings are yet to be worked out. Leaders from Bengal have been summoned to Delhi for a meeting on February 1,” Ashoke Sarkar, the Shiv Sena general secretary in Bengal, told HT.
“I am camping in Malda right now. From here I will travel to Alipurduar and other north Bengal districts. In the next two weeks, around 12,000 BJP supporters will join the Shiv Sena in Malda district,” said Sarkar.
The Shiv Sena will contest seats in Kolkata, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Jhargram, Purulia, Midnapore, Nadia, Malda, Murshidabad, Alipurduar and some other districts, said Sarkar.
Reacting to this, Bengal BJP said the Sena is in fray at the behest of Banerjee.
“Shiv Sena has virtually no presence in Bengal. Its only agenda is to help the TMC against the BJP but the strategy will not work. It is an irony that the CPI(M), which always called the Congress a party of the bourgeois, and the Shiv Sena, which was born to counter the Congress, are all set to present before Bengal’s voters a conflict of ideology,” said Bengal BJP vice-president Jay Prakash Majumdar.
Bengal’s deputy parliamentary affairs minister and TMC spokesperson Tapas Roy said, “How the BJP perceives the Shiv Sena is entirely its business. In a democracy, all recognized parties have the right to contest elections in any state. We cannot stop anyone.”
Political analyst and columnist Suvashis Maitra said Shiv Sena’s entry in the contest can only be described as “good news for Mamata Banerjee.”
“Bengal never witnessed the politics of electoral engineering where a party contests not to win but to help another. We saw this in Hindi heartland so far. Shiv Sena never won any seat in Bengal and this time too, it will not contest to win. One may say it will play the same role that the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) headed by Asaduddin Owaisi plans to play by splitting Muslim votes. If the Sena gets even one vote it will be at the cost of the BJP’s vote bank,” said Maitra.
The AIMIM recently announced that it will contest the Bengal polls from several districts and countered allegations that it helped the BJP win the polls in Bihar by splitting Muslim votes.
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- Poll panel officials said that special central observers are sent to each poll-bound state depending on the sensitivity of the state to look into law and order, expenditure and other aspects. The observers are usually retired bureaucrats who had held top posts in various central agencies.