With the eight-phase elections for the West Bengal Assembly slated to begin on March 27, campaigning has reached fever pitch, with both the BJP and the TMC reaching out to voters and blaming each other’s policies for the state lagging behind in terms of development. The BJP, which already has its Chief Ministers in Tripura and Assam, now wants to expand its footprint in West Bengal. Its foray into the eastern state has met with stiff resistance, with attacks taking place on its leaders and the levelling of charges of it being a party of outsiders. To deflect this, the BJP has inducted leaders from other parties, taking the battle to the enemy camp, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee has decided she would contest only from Nandigram from where the BJP has fielded her former aide Suvendu Adhikari.
The choice of Nandigram, the hub of a farmers’ movement against the Left Front government, symbolises best the dilemma of development in West Bengal. The flight of Tatas from Singur only accentuated this. With work on the dedicated eastern freight corridor nearing completion and plans afoot to connect Bengal with both the west and east coasts with similar rail corridors, the BJP has been trying to pitch itself as a party that favours development even as the TMC faces charges of involvement in scams. The allegations against the West Bengal CM’s kin have a ring of the Bihar elections where the BJP used the ‘Jungle Raj Ka Yuvraj’ slogan to target RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav.
With Union Home Minister Amit Shah reiterating that CAA will be implemented after Covid vaccination ends, including the granting of Indian citizenship to refugees from Bangladesh, it will be interesting to see how the issue plays out. As PM Modi is scheduled to visit Bangladesh to attend the birth centenary celebrations of Mujibur Rahman on election eve, India will have to allay Dhaka’s apprehensions on CAA. With the Congress and Left Front joining hands, and the BJP pulling no punches, Mamata will find little room for complacency.