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Ahead of Amit Shah's Bengal Visit, Prashant Kishor Heads for Siliguri to Chalk out Trinamool Poll Strategy

File photo of Amit Shah and Mamata Banerjee

File photo of Amit Shah and Mamata Banerjee

The growing influence of the BJP in the region has led to speculations that the ruling TMC may narrow down their influence with 8-10 seats in the upcoming polls in 2021.

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Sujit Nath

BJP’s growing support in North Bengal and Amit Shah’s planned visit to this colder clime of the state ahead of Durga Puja has forced political strategist Prashant Kishor and TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee to visit the northern part on Monday to resolve growing inner rivalries within the party leadership.

The northern part of the state has 54 assembly seats where TMC won 16 seats in 2016. However the growing influence of the BJP in the region has led to speculations that the ruling TMC may narrow down their influence with 8-10 seats in the upcoming polls in 2021.

Prashan Kishor’s visit to the north Bengal would be the first occasion since the political strategist took up the TMC campaign in June 2019.

Kishor and TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee, who is also Mamata’s nephew will be touring North Bengal for three days where the duo have organised a series of meetings with party leaders, workers and postholders at Siliguri, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and Darjeeling to gain back the lost grounds before the election.

TMC stronghold in North Bengal includes two seats in Alipurduar, two in Jalpaiguri, one in Darjeeling, two seats in North Dinajpur, three in South Dinajpur and one in Malda. In the remaining 45 seats, the ruling party is struggling as the BJP has set its foot firm in the region.

Kishor and Banaerjee’s visit remain crucial amid Amit Shah’s visit to Bengal. Shah will take stock of the situation ahead of the 2021 Assembly polls in the state. Apart from his scheduled meetings in North Bengal, the Union Home Minister will also conduct meetings in South Bengal.

After a significant performance in the last Lok Sabha elections, Shah will brief party leaders about the roadmap ahead to oust the TMC in the assembly polls. State centric issues will also be discussed during BJP’s scheduled campaign against the TMC in the state.

PM Narendra Modi’s virtual greetings on ‘Sasthi’ (on October 22, 2021) will be backed by Amit Shah’s public meeting in North Bengal and also at the booth level before Durga Puja.

In April 2017, Amit Shah had kicked off his three-day West Bengal visit with a lunch at a Dalit’s house with Raju Mahali and wife Geeta Mahali at Naxalbari in North Bengal. “I have addressed many rallies across the country, but nothing is more satisfying than today’s meeting in this tiny village in Bengal,” Shah had said. However, both Raju Mahali and wife Geeta Mahali had later joined the TMC in the presence Tourism Minister Goutam Deb in Siliguri.

Shah will kickstart the election rally from BJP stronghold in North Bengal. This might be the reason why Kishor and Banerjee are lean on personally visiting North Bengal, to review party strategy on the BJP stronghold.

Mamata Banerjee is eyeing on ‘North Bengal’ as the region has become a nightmare for her following TMC’s devastated performance in the last Lok Sabha Polls.

Out of eight Lok Sabha seats- Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Raigunj, Balurghat, North Malda and South Malda in North Bengal – Mamata has miserably failed to win just a single seat as seven out of eight went to BJP, while Malda South was secured by legend (late) Ghani Khan Chowdhury’s brother Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury from the Congress, popularly known as ‘Dalu da’.

In Malda North, BJP’s Khagen Murmu defeated sitting MP Mausam Noor from TMC, while in Malda South ‘Dalu da’ won the seat by defeating BJP’s Sreerupa Mitra Chaudhury. TMC’s Md Moazzem Hossain stood third with 27.47 vote share.

In rest of the seats - BJP’s Nisith Pramanik, John Barla, Jayanta Kumar Ray, Raju Singh Bisht, Deboshree Chaudhary, Sukanta Majumdar and Khagen Murmu had sent shock waves to the TMC by winning Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Raiganj, Balurghat and North Malda respectively during the last Lok Sabha elections in 2019.

Recently, Mamata had reshuffled the party post holders to iron out the faction feud within the party before the next Assembly polls. She had warned party leaders multiple times to iron out internal rift and expressed her helplessness to go for a massive reshuffle by bringing new face to strengthen the party ahead of the state polls.

Political expert Kapil Thakur feels that besides Purulia, North 24-Parganas and Jungalmahal (where TMC is believed to be losing its grip) - North Bengal will be a mother of all battles as it consist of 54 assembly seats out of total 294 seats in Bengal and TMC’s fate will be decided on how the party will perform in North Bengal.

“You must have noticed how she has already started playing her community cards over Rajbonshi or Kamtapuri community. Sometimes, she plays the card of Anukulchandra (a spiritual leader born in Bangladesh and the founder of Satsang) while sometimes she plays her Matua card. This is nothing new in Bengal as most of the political parties try to woo Rajbonshi, which is decided factor in North Bengal in any polls,” Kapil Thakur said.

With more than 30 percent vote share – Rajbonshi are undeniably a deciding factor to turn the tables for any political party in North Bengal.

They were the deciding factor during the Left rule till Mamata Banerjee came to power in 2011. Now, Rajbonshi has favoured the BJP which led to devastated poll results of the TMC in the last Lok Sabha polls.

Mamata knows it well that any significant division in the Rajbonshi vote share – a significant factor in nearly 50 out of 54 Assembly segments in North Bengal could jeopardise her mission ‘Ekush’ (2021 Assembly polls).

Muslim voters in North Bengal have remained a problem for the ruling TMC due to internal rift within the party which hampered their Muslim vote share and also due to Congress’ stronghold over a sizeable Muslim voters (which is going against the TMC and favouring the BJP).

The rising voter percentage for BJP is also fuelling TMC’s concern. In the 2016 assembly polls, BJP’s vote share was 10.2 per cent and in 2019 Lok Sabha it went up to 40.3 per cent. There was an increase of 30.1 percent vote share mainly because a majority of Hindus voteshare went towads the BJP. In the last three years, BJP managed to cultivate religious driven politics in Bengal and it was evident with its significant rise in Bengal in terms of it’s vote share.

Statistics shows that since 2011 Assembly polls to the 2016 Assembly elections, Left Front has lost its vote share around 10 per cent and from 2014 Lok Sabha to 2019 Lok Sabha the vote share plummeted to nearly 16 per cent.

However, Congress vote share from 2011 to 2016 Assembly increased from 8.91 per cent to 12.3 percent but it fell drastically in 2014 Lok Sabha (9.6 %) while in 2019 general elections the party managed to secure only 5 per cent.

State tourism minister Gautam Deb, has always maintained that it will be advantageous to TMC as the BJP does not have any face for the Chief Ministerial in Bengal.

The significance of North Bengal for BJP and TMC both could be imagined when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mamata have decided to blow the Lok Sabha poll bugle from the area on the same day on April 3, 2019. PM Modi had then addressed two rallies in Siliguri near Jalpaiguri Railway Station. Banerjee addressed a public meet in Dinhata in Cooch Behar (where the first phase of polling was held on April 11, 2019).

On April 4-5, 2019, Mamata Banerjee had addressed public rallies in Mathabhanga (in Cooch Behar) and in Nagrakata in Jalpaiguri.

As a result in March 2020 – Mamata picked Malda, in North Bengal, for her mega interactive session with more than 80,000 party workers. The reason was – Malda (both South and North) with nearly 50 per cent Muslim population, Trinamool has never won any seats in the region till date (except that after the 2016 assembly polls, four MLAs shifted to the party, including one independent, one from the CPI (M) and two from the Congress.

Mamata knows that North Bengal could be crucial and will hold the keys in taking TMC’s tally up or down while keeping in mind that the region (North Bengal) helped BJP to increase its tally from two to 18 seats in the last Lok Sabha.


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