Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appears to have created ripplesin West Bengal politics, probably for the first time, promptingTrinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee to direct her partyworkers in stepping up efforts to contain the rise of the saffronparty in the state.
Banerjeeduring a meeting with senior party officials also admitted that it islikely to be a four-horse race in the state during the upcoming LokSabha elections.
"Youhave to make sure communal forces do not rise in the state. We haveto contain them. We have to fight CPI-M, Congress and BJP thiselection," party workers quoted Banerjee as saying in TMC'spre-election rallies across several districts of West Bengal.
Theby-poll in Jangipur Lok Sabha constituency last year probably hintedthe growing popularity of BJP in the state for the first time. Inthat poll BJP secured 11 per cent of the votes compared to three/fourper cent in earlier years. Opinion polls and surveys also indicatethat BJP may gain close to 10 per cent of vote share in West Bengalduring the upcoming general elections, which may upset all politicalcalculations. TMC, which is contesting alone this time, fears thatBJP may get a sizeable chunk of anti-Left votes in the state.
Banerjee is now spending considerable amount of timein criticising BJP, along with Congress and Left, in all her recentpublic meetings. "BJP wants to divide the state. Do not vote forthem," she said in a public meet in Nadia's Krishnanagardistrict. Interestingly, this is one of the constituencies in WestBengal, where BJP fancies its chances. The saffron party has fieldedformer party MP Satyabrata Mukherjee from Krishnanagar. Mukherjee hadgot about 180,000 votes in 2009 going alone.
Theso-called 'Modi wave' and the break-up of Congress-TMC alliance, ismaking BJP workers confident of their chances this time, politicalexperts said. BJP has also secured support of Gorkha Janamukti Morcha(GJM), which has strong support base in the northern parts of thestate. Experts claim that with GJM's support BJP can not only win inDarjeeling but also perform well in neighbouring Alipurduar andJalpaiguri constituencies.
BJPalso appears to have chosen its candidates in West Bengal carefully.In Bongaon, KD Biswas has been given a ticket. Biswas is thesecretary of the Matua Mahasangh, a sect that represents a largenumber of backward communities. These communities constitute almost60 per cent of the electorate in that region.
Thesaffron party has also matched TMC in fielding celebrities. MagicianPC Sorcar, singer Babul Supriyo and music composer and singer BappiLahiri will contest for the party in Barrackpore, Durgapur andSreerampore. "There are at least 10 Lok Sabha seats where BJP'svote may be a deciding factor. The recent by-poll indicates BJP'svote share in the state is on the rise. Perhaps it is still notconsolidated enough to translate into seats. We have to see whichparty will suffer most because of BJP's rise," a senior TMCleader told Business Standard requesting anonymity.
Thestate unit of BJP is certainly euphoric about the attention it isgetting from its rivals. "Mamata is spending more time incriticising BJP than any other party. This shows how nervous TMC is,"Rahul Sinha, state BJP president, said. Sinha is also contesting thepoll from North Kolkata.