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BJP or Trinamool? Who Stands to Gain the Most from 4-Way Bengal Battle

BJP or Trinamool? Who Stands to Gain the Most from 4-Way Bengal Battle

In Bengal's four cornered fight, the BJP has been projecting itself as an alternative to the Left, while the Congress is battling the TMC ever since Mamata Banerjee left the grand old party.

With the BJP announcing the first 28 of its candidates in West Bengal, the question remains as to whether a four-cornered-fight in the state will aid the saffron party or the ruling Trinamool Congress. The answer, party leaders from both admitted, wasn't that simple.

Earlier this week, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) announced candidates for 13 Lok Sabha seats, with the party so far having declared nominees for 38 of the state's 42 parliamentary seats. In doing so, it has seemingly shut the gates for a Left-Congress understanding. Many in the BJP argued that for the party - looking to make inroads in a state that has historically rejected it - this will be an advantage, but only in certain seats.

The division of the anti-Trinamool vote

The BJP's greatest success in the state, so far, has been in articulating itself as an alternative to the Left. In the past eight decades, the Left's influence over the state has waned. The Left won less than 10 percent of the seats in the 2016 Assembly polls and in the 2018 panchayat polls, it slid to third place behind the TMC and the BJP.

The Congress, on the other hand, reduced to a few seats ever since Mamata Banerjee left the party and formed the Trinamool Congress, received a shot in the arm with its seats and vote share increasing after the Left-Congress alliance in 2016. But even that is under siege, with the TMC making steady inroads into traditional Congress bastions, with its MP Mausam Noor defecting to TMC.

"A four-cornered fight suits us in many seats. It effectively shows that the Left and the Congress can't offer an alternative to the TMC. They can't even get their house in order, how can they defeat the ruling party," said a state committee leader.

This, BJP leaders said, could well become a deciding factor in key seats in south Bengal which the party was focusing on such as Birbhum, Hooghly, Bankura among others.

Where it could help the TMC

The Left had proposed that the alliance contest the seats they won in 2014. A plan that would allow them to retain their victorious two seats in north Bengal - Raiganj and Murshidabad. The Congress couldn't accept this, with both former Congress president Adhir Ranjan Choudhury and Deepa Dasmunsi, wife of late Congress grandee Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, rejecting the plan.

This, TMC leaders said, was welcome news - especially in the Muslim majority seats of north Bengal. "We had been preparing while keeping in mind that the BJP's plan was to communalise the voting patterns. They have been trying to consolidate the Hindu votes in this area. If the Muslim vote gets divided between two parties and the BJP gets the rest, they could effectively win."

The BJP's strategy in these seats, especially those along the border have been to emphasise on alleged infiltration from Bangladesh.