KOLKATA — Voters in West Bengal in all probability are going to witness a four-cornered battle in the state in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. There is a remote possibility that the contest might get reduced to a three-cornered one in case the Left Front and the Congress come to a last minute understanding, the possibility of which appears to be bleak at the moment.
In the current political situation in the state there seems to be no possibility of the ruling Trinamool Congress going for any kind of understanding with any other party as is evident from two recent statements of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
First, repeating her war cry of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, she said that her party will jump into the poll fray to emerge as the victor in all the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state. Secondly, besides the BJP, she is constantly accusing both the Congress and the CPI(M) of having a secret understanding with the saffron party to weaken the Trinamool Congress in the state.
Muslim vote bank
According to political analyst Amal Kumar Mukhopadhyay, from the results of the 2021 Assembly polls it is clear that the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal does not need any third party support to fight the BJP. “In the 2021 Assembly polls, almost the entire minority community votes went in favour of the Trinamool Congress. The traditional minority votes that were with the CPI(M) totally shifted to the Trinamool Congress, thus reducing the Left Front to zero in terms of the numerical strength in the assembly. So is the case with the Congress, whose dedicated Muslim vote bank in the minority dominated districts of Malda and Murshidabad shifted to the Trinamool Congress in 2021.”
“The wave in favour of the Trinamool Congress strengthened in the successive by-elections, where the BJP could not even retain those seats that it had won earlier like Asansol. So right now, Mamata Banerjee has emerged as the true messiah for the minority voters against the BJP. In such a situation there is no reason for the Trinamool Congress to shift from its stand of contesting alone,” he said.
Coming to the CPI(M) or the Left Front, their performance in the recent polls including by-polls, municipal corporation polls, where the Left Front contested without any alliance with the Congress like in the 2021 assembly polls, has given faint signals that very slowly a small proportion of their traditional voters who had shifted to the BJP or the Trinamool Congress, have started coming back. So, in all probability feel political observers, that in 2024 too the CPI(M) would like to go ahead on its own instead of having any alliance. At the maximum, there can be restricted seat sharing arrangements but that won’t be for more than a couple of seats as happened in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
As per the calculations of Trinamool Congress insiders, the increase in the vote share of the non-BJP parties, especially the Left Front, will help the state’s ruling party more than the BJP, since in that case the anti-establishment votes in the state will be split. Veteran Trinamool Congress MP, Saugata Roy also accepts this logic that an increase in the Left Front’s vote share will actually benefit the Trinamool Congress.
As regards the Congress, however serious its state president in West Bengal might be about having an alliance with the Left Front, it will not be possible unless there is a positive nod on this count from the Left Front leadership.
Challenge for BJP
For the BJP, whose greatest challenge now is to retain the 18 Lok Sabha seats it won in 2019, much will depend on how far it will be able to polarize the majority Hindu votes by exploiting the sentiment against the perceived minority appeasement politics and policies of the Trinamool Congress government.
According to political analyst Arundhati Mukherjee, a crucial indicator will be the 2023 state panchayat polls. “While it is a foregone conclusion that the Trinamool Congress will sweep the panchayat polls, it is to be seen whether the BJP will be able to hold on to its runner-up position or the Left Front will rise like the mythological Phoenix,” she said. — IANS