West Bengal and Assam are set for the first phase of assembly elections on Saturday. Campaigning for this phase will end on Thursday evening. As per the Election Commission’s schedule, while 47 Assembly seats in Assam will go polls in the first, polling in West Bengal will cover 30 seats.
While in Assam, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is looking to retain the power, the saffron party is pulling out all stops to wrest power from the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal.
In Bengal, the BJP and ruling Trinamool Congress, headed by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, are spearheading intense election campaign in West Bengal with the saffron party deploying its enviable political machinery to capture power in the state which it has never ruled. Several Union ministers, MPs and other leaders recognised for their organisational and poll management skills have been roped in by the saffron party to drive its campaign in the state, with special attention on the seats which it considers winnable.
The saffron party made deep inroads in West Bengal by winning 18 of its 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2019 – only four less than ruling TMC. The BJP is projecting it as an alternative to the Trinamool Congress which is ruling the state since 2011 under Mamata Banerjee’s leadership. The BJP is aiming to get a majority of over 200 seats.
The party is organising a series of events wherein it is highlighting the failures of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with a focus on political killings, minority appeasement, and poor handling of the COVID-19 situation. The saffron party expects to repeat the 2019 performance in the upcoming Assembly elections.
In Assam, the BJP is campaigning aggressively to retain power. The saffron party won for the first time here in 2016 by dethroning the Congress. It was also the party’s first win in any northeastern state. The party has set a target of winning 100 plus seats in the 126-member House this election.
The BJP is contesting elections in an alliance with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL). As per the seat-sharing pact, the BJP will field candidates from 92 seats while the AGP and UPPL will enter the fray from 26 and 8 seats.
The Congress-led alliance comprises AIUDF, CPI, CPI (M), CPI (ML), Anchalik Gana Morcha and Bodoland People’s Front (BPF). The BPF was a NDA constituent. But it quit the alliance and sided with the opposition front.
Turning the Assam polls into a three-way battle is an alliance of two regional parties — the Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) and Raijor Dol. The AJP was floated by former members of All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and other civil society groups. The Raijor Dol was formed by the supporters of noted activist Akhil Gogoi who is in jail in connection with a sedition case. Both the parties were born out of the anti-CAA protests in Assam.
The outcome of the Assam polls which will have an impact on the entire Northeast, will be a big test for the BJP which is expecting to continue making gains through the Modi government’s “east policy”.