As Polls Near, Mamata Ready to Take the Fight to BJP Strongholds of North Bengal and Jangalmahal
TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee has decided to go for 'surgical strikes' on the BJP’s strongholds, including North Bengal and Jangalmahal.
Unfavourable results in the 2019 bypolls for the Kaliaganj, Kharagpur Sadar and Karimpur assembly seats in Bengal and the loss of a few ‘winning seats’ in North 24 Parganas in last year's Lok Sabha elections – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) knows that any division in its vote share in North Bengal and Jangalmahal could spoil its game plan to oust the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the 2021 assembly polls.
Going with the strategy to "hit them where it will hurt the most", TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee has decided to go for 'surgical strikes' on the BJP’s strongholds, including North Bengal and Jangalmahal (Burdwan, Birbhum, Purulia, Bankura and Midnapore districts).
To start with, after months of virtual meetings due to the Covid-19 crisis, Mamata has decided to personally visit North Bengal on September 21, 2020, to hold a series of administrative and small public interactions to understand where her party stands and what steps need to be taken to corner the BJP in the upcoming state polls.
On September 21, Mamata will reach Siliguri and will spend a night there. On September 22-23, she will hold administrative meetings with officials of Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Cooch Behar districts at ‘Uttarkanya’ (Siliguri secretariat).
The chief minister is scheduled to return to Kolkata on September 24. Since the Covid-19 outbreak in March, this will be her first visit to North Bengal.
North Bengal has become a nightmare for Mamata due to the devastating 2019 Lok Sabha poll results and this time she is certainly looking to break the BJP’s dominance in the area.
Out of eight Lok Sabha seats, Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Raiganj, Balurghat, North Malda and South Malda in North Bengal, the TMC failed to win even one as seven of them went to the BJP, while South Malda was secured by the late Ghani Khan Chowdhury’s brother Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury (Congress), popularly known as ‘Dalu da’.
In Malda North, the BJP’s Khagen Murmu defeated sitting MP Mausam Noor (a Congress MP previously but fought the 2019 Lok Sabha polls on a TMC ticket), while in Malda South, ‘Dalu da’ won the seat by defeating the BJP’s Sreerupa Mitra Chaudhury. The TMC’s Md Moazzem Hossain stood third with a 27.47 per cent vote share.
In the remaining seats, the BJP’s Nisith Pramanik, John Barla, Jayanta Kumar Ray, Raju Singh Bisht, Deboshree Chaudhary and Sukanta Majumdar sent shock waves through the TMC camp by winning Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Raiganj and Balurghat, respectively.
The BJP has grown exponentially in North Bengal and Mamata had recently gone for a major organisational reshuffle to iron out the faction feud in the party before the 2021 assembly polls.
North Bengal will see the mother of all poll battles as it consists of 54 assembly seats of the total 294 in Bengal and the TMC’s fate in next year's elections will be decided by how the party fares here.
The significance of North Bengal for both the BJP and TMC both can be gauged from the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief minister Mamata Banerjee decided to blow the Lok Sabha poll bugle on the same day from here on April 3, 2019.
Targeting the nearly 35.8 per cent Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) voters in Bankura alone (predominantly a tribal area with 12 assembly seats) and close to 40 per cent in the entire tribal-dominated Jangalmahal region, the TMC is strategising to corner the BJP in the region where the saffron party made significant advances in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Mamata knows that North Bengal could be the difference between her party winning or losing the polls and it's also the region that helped the BJP increase its tally from two to 18 seats in the Lok Sabha.
Party insiders say that after her North Bengal tour, Mamata will visit Jangalmahal to have similar administrative meetings in a bid to carry out another 'surgical strike' on the saffron camp.