Present languor is not just because of post-festival fatigue but also because there is uncertainty, even among political parties, over how exactly battle lines will shape up
The public mood in West Bengal, at the moment, appears similar to what prevails in its neighbourhoods after lunch, when shops and even pharmacies shut down so that everybody can nap. With the two major festivals of Durga Puja and Deepavali having just gone by, even capital Kolkata seems to be in a state of languor before the bugle is sounded for the next big festival — the one that comes every five years.
The languor is not just because of post-festival fatigue but also because there is uncertainty, even among political parties, over how exactly the battle lines will shape up. At the moment no one can be sure who’s going to be with whom, with large-scale switchovers being expected in the coming months.
A direct contest
The only certainty is that the 2021 Assembly elections, due in April, will see a direct contest between the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — a battle in which the latter will have nothing to lose but only to gain. Five years isn’t a very long time but the State BJP has come a long way since the 2016 elections, when it could pick up only three of the 294 seats. In 2019, it shocked its adversaries by winning 18 of its 42 Lok Sabha seats and today, the party forming a government in the State in 2021 is no longer unthinkable.
With the winds blowing in favour of the BJP, particularly after its impressive performance in the recently-held Bihar elections, the switchovers in West Bengal are also expected to happen in its favour, with more heavyweights from the TMC and other parties joining it than the other way round.
“[The shifting of loyalties] will be decided mainly by identity politics. For the first time since Independence, West Bengal is witnessing [communal] polarisation on a large scale and identity politics is going to play a major role in the coming elections. One can expect Muslim leaders from the Congress and the Left joining the TMC, and Hindu leaders from the TMC, Congress and the Left joining the BJP,” political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty told The Hindu.
It remains a chicken-and-egg question whether the rise of the BJP has led to the polarisation or whether it was the existing polarisation, largely resulting from the opinion that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was being overly partial towards the minority community, that laid a red carpet for the BJP, but this is the first time in the history of the State that the right-wing is smelling power.
“Also, investigations are going on by various Central agencies against illegal coal mining, cow smuggling and the Narada and Saradha scams—the results of these investigations are bound to have an impact on the elections,” Mr. Chakraborty said.