While it seemed like the stage was all set for an epic TMC and the BJP showdown with a probable Mamata vs Modi finale, with the Left-Congress alliance as a distant third, it might not be quite the case anymore. Several parties like the AIMIM, Shiv Sena, JD(U), JMM and HAM have expressed their interest to contest the high-voltage West Bengal Assembly elections in 2021.
Meanwhile, Whispers have been floating of a possible alliance between the Congress-Left with AIMIM and Furfura Sharif’s Abbas Siddiqui and his yet-to-be-launched political front. This would build a strong third front in the elections potentially making it a three-way battle.
While these parties independently might find it incredibly tough to win the elections when pitched against the TMC and the BJP, but they would definitely eat into the vote banks of either party, thereby helping its counterpart. One of the plausible solutions for these parties is to join either of the three fronts with the Left-Congress one being the most likely.
Undoubtedly the most talked about entry into the state is Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM), which is being perceived as a threat to Mamata Banerjee’s aim for a consecutive third term.
Muslims have been a crucial TMC vote bank until the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, having an influence in around 110 seats. AIMIM’s entry means that this vote will get divided. To add salt to the TMC’s wound, Owaisi might also forge an alliance with influential Furfura Sharif imam, Abbas Siddiqui who wields some clout over Muslim voters in Hooghly district.
This move has earned both the parties a good deal of backlash. Other Imams of the Furfura Sharif and the Bengal Imam’s Association have called out the MIM for playing “divisive” politics and helping the BJP.
However, the AIMIM has already been dealt two blows as two of their WB state president S.K Abdul Kalam and key state leader Anwar Pasha switched over to the TMC, along with several other leaders.
Maharashtra’s Shiv Sena is likely to contest 100 seats in the assembly elections and if they do, they will pose a direct threat to BJP’s Hindu vote bank. They will become an alternate option for the Hindutva votes which would have otherwise sided with the BJP. Now that the Shiv Sena is not part of the NDA anymore, they wouldn’t mind cutting into the BJP vote share.
In fact, Shiv Sena its mouthpiece ‘Saamana’ said that the TMC is fighting a ‘lonely battle in West Bengal’ and that the country’s opposition should ‘stand by her side at this time’. While they urged that this should have been under the leadership of the Congress, the Congress-Left alliance here stands as a direct threat to the TMC.
While The TMC has urged the Cong-Left to forge an alliance with them, the latter responded by saying that the TMC should fight the elections by merging into the Congress, giving the BJP a tactical advantage.
This isn’t Shiv Sena’s first rodeo in West Bengal. They contested in the 2016 and 2019 elections but had failed to make a mark.
Another NDA member, the Janata Dal (United) will be contesting in 75 assembly seats focusing on the districts near Bihar’s border. They plan to fight the elections based on party supremo Nitish Kumar’s ‘alcohol prohibition’ agenda.
The party has already started planning for a solo fight in the state if an alliance with the BJP doesn’t work out. The ‘Googly’ situation here is that if the JD(U) fights in alliance with the BJP, it might cost the latter in its fight against the TMC’s might. However, if the former decides to contest alone as it did in Delhi and Jharkhand, they are likely to eat into the BJP’s vote share, like Shiv Sena.
RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav has pledged his support to Mamata Banerjee, and are trying to work out a plan to support her.
The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha too is no stranger to the state as they had contested in the 2016 assembly elections by fielding candidates in 23 seats but failed to open their account. This time around, they are planning to fight the elections “with all their might” as claimed by JMM spokesperson Vinod Kumar Pandey.
Given Banerjee’s history with JMM chief Hemant Soren, a pre-poll alliance with the TMC is likely. But it must also be noted that the JMM is in an alliance with the Congress and RJD in Jharkhand where they run the government. JMM had walked out of the RJD-led Mahagatbandhan in Bihar and contested the 2020 Bihar elections independently.
Banerjee had accepted Soren’s invitation to attend his swearing-in ceremony in 2019, while Soren had addressed a mega rally of opposition parties convened by Banerjee in Kolkata ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
Hindustan Awam Morcha led by former Bihar CM Jitan Ram Manjhi will be contesting 26 seats in the assembly elections. While they are exploring pre-poll alliances, the NDA member is most likely to side with the BJP. The BJP can use the HAM to appeal to the Dalit voters of West Bengal. Or maybe a HAM-JD(U) alliance is on the cards?
The Matuas in Bengal constitute a significant vote bank which both the BJP and TMC are trying to woo in their respective election campaigns by trying to fulfil their demand for citizenship rights.
Just like a game of football is not over until the last minute, the game of elections isn’t over even after the results are declared. One can never rule out the possibility of post-poll alliances, because who knows when a kingmaker might be needed?
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