5 Dilemmas That Lie at the Heart of Bengal Elections 2021

If ‘defection’ was the most trending word in the West Bengal elections, then ‘dilemma’ certainly comes second.

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Politics
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West Bengal Elections 2021: One of Many Dilemmas
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If ‘defection’ was the most trending word this election season, particularly in the backdrop of the West Bengal elections, then ‘dilemma’ certainly comes second. The Bharatiya Janata Party, the Congress and the Trinamool Congress are all faced with one or more dilemmas as their battle against each other rages on.

The dilemmas are particularly tricky for the Congress and the BJP, primarily because they are also heading to polls in other states around the same time. This brings forth a conflict of interest for both these parties.

While the BJP is in a dilemma over the implementation of CAA in Bengal as it can hurt its chances in Assam, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has been hesitant to share a stage with Left parties in Bengal because they are arch-rivals in Kerala.

However, it isn’t just the parties who are facing dilemmas, Voters in Bengal too are in a dilemma over who to vote for. They will have some tough decisions to make.

BJP’s CAA Implementation Dilemma

There were several allegations against the BJP over its softening stance on the Citizenship Amendment Act during its poll campaign in Bengal. Home Minister Amit Shah put all that to rest when he promised the implementation of CAA in Bengal “as soon as the coronavirus vaccination process” was over, when he addressed the Matuas in Thakurnagar.

The Matuas form around 20 per cent of the state’s population and directly influence 40-45 assembly seats. In 2019, they had sided with the BJP over the promise of citizenship, thus earning them 18 parliamentary seats. 

The Matuas had initially grown impatient over the delay in the implementation of the act. Shah’s speech has calmed them for now, and if all goes well, then the BJP might have won themselves a major vote bank in their ‘Mission Bengal’. But that is the start of their problem because the CAA can work against the BJP in Assam.

Protestors in Assam don’t want any illegal immigrant to be granted citizenship beyond the cut off-date of 1971 according to the Assam Accord. This is one of the reasons why the BJP has been soft about CAA and NRC in Assam. BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma even said “CAA and NRC are no more the discourse in Assam.”

This dilemma is probably one of the reasons why the BJP has been delaying the implementation of the CAA across the nation because while they may stand to benefit from Bengal and Kerala, they have a fair share to lose in Assam. Added to the CAA dilemma would also be the issue of illegal Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh which the BJP would be expected to tackle as promised, in both Bengal and Assam.

Meanwhile, BJP leader Biswajit Das (who recently defected from the TMC) accused BJP MP and one of the heads of the Matua Mahasangha, Shantanu Thakur of ‘pressurizing the BJP leadership’ to implement the laws as soon as possible.

Where to field Suvendu Adhikari?

Suvendu Adhikari 
Suvendu Adhikari 
(Photo: BJP)

BJP’s second major dilemma is regarding their “star-campaigner” Suvendu Adhikari. It is no doubt that BJP scored big with Adhikari, but Mamata’s decision to contest the elections from Nandigram put BJP in a soup. Nandigram is Adhikari’s bastion where he was the TMC MLA from 2016. While everyone is expecting a Mamata vs Suvendu battle in a seat which has been extremely significant for both the leaders, the BJP is still undecided.

Many have opined that in a battle between Mamata and Suvendu, Mamata has higher chances of winning the seat and BJP and the saffron party would lose in more ways than one - a seat, star campaigner and optics game.

If Suvendu fights from Nandigram then the BJP would have taken the bait that the TMC supremo boldly threw at them, and if he doesn’t, then it would project an image of cowardice. 

It is rumoured that Suvendu’s brother Dibyendu Adhikari is most likely to contest from the seat. However, no formal announcement has been made yet. This hypothesis does beg the question, where will BJP field Suvendu from if not Nandigram? Bhowanipore?

Congress’ Alliance with Left Front

Unlike the BJP, the Congress’ dilemma is not due to its policies, but due to its alliances. While the Congress has allied with the Left-front to contest the WB elections together, in Kerala they are facing off firecely against each other.

CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi 
CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi 
(Photo: Twitter/INCIndia)

This is one of the major reasons why Rahul Gandhi has been postponing his visit to Bengal so that he doesn’t have to share the stage with Left leaders, which might send a negative image to the people of Kerala, from where he is an MP.

The Congress and Left will be hosting a rally on February 28 where Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi were invited. However, Rahul will not be attending the rally. Reports suggest that Gandhi can’t afford to lose in Kerala after having lost in Amethi which might be a massive blow to his reputation.

GJM’s Faction War and TMC

Bimal Gurung and Binoy Tamang
Bimal Gurung and Binoy Tamang
(Photo: Kamran Akhtar/ The Quint)

The TMC which already has its hands full in trying to fight the BJP has yet another problem in their hands. Previously the TMC had Binoy Tamang’s faction of the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJM) by its side in North Bengal, but now with Bimal Gurung pledging his support for Banerjee, they have a dilemma.

Both the factions are out for each other’s blood and handling them and getting them to work together is a responsibility that the TMC probably didn’t ask for. 

While so far both factions have been working together peacefully (mostly) under the TMC, their problems might increase exponentially when it comes to fielding candidates in North Bengal or if they manage to win there, especially since both have very different approaches to the issue of Gorkhaland.

The Dilemma of The Voter

At the end of the day, it is the voter who holds the most amount of power in a democracy and when it comes to voting, they are faced with several choices supplemented by several stimuli. This time in Bengal, the biggest dilemma lies with the voter.

One of the biggest dilemmas that the voter in Bengal will be facing this time is with the candidature. There have been several defections from the TMC to the BJP and while there will be candidates from the TMC on TMC tickets, there will also be ex-TMC leaders on a BJP ticket.

The voter will have quite a few factors to consider while voting - Are they loyal to the party or to their candidate? If they are voting for the BJP but voting an ex-TMC leader, then does that nullify the cause? Or are they voting in the name of PM Modi and none of the above factors matter.

There's also an added dilemma for Muslim voters as they are spoilt for choice with the entry of Pirzada Abbas Siddiqui’s Indian Secular Front and the possible entry of Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM (through ISF). The ISF’s alliance with the Congress and Left front can prove to be a major threat to Mamata’s Muslim vote bank, as that is exactly what the alliance is aiming for.

However, the voter is also in another dilemma that voting for the Third Front (Left-Congress-ISF) and denting Mamata’s vote bank can indirectly help the BJP by splitting the opposition votes.

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