Over to Bengal

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AFTER the BJP’s good showing in recent Bihar elections, the party is now busy traning guns at West Bengal where it seeks to dislodge the Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress Party. Senior BJP leaders including home minister Amit Shah and the BJP president JP Nadda are making frequent visits to Bengal to mobilize support in favour of the BJP. The BJP is leaving no stone unturned to upstage the Chief Minister Banerjee. The past few weeks have witnessed many a bitter exchange between the parties. Several. TMC leaders have also defected to the BJP. The war of words between the parties is likely to get fiercer by the day.

But nothing can as yet be said with certainty about which of the two parties will eventually carry the day in Bengal. It is true that the BJP has never had a strong political base in the state. Its efforts over the past several years to mobilize public support haven’t met with success. The TMC has a strong cadre and has been in power since the last ten years. The party would certainly be facing some anti-incumbency issues but it doesn’t mean that the party is on a weaker wicket.

However, the significance of the Bengal election is beyond the BJP-TMC rivalry. Its outcome will be a profoundly important development. If the TMC wins, it will arrest the disarray among the secular forces and give them confidence to stand up to Modi in the upcoming state elections. As the result in recent Bihar polls has once again highlighted, only a broad secular front against the BJP could confront the party with a credible challenge. As things stand, there is no dislodging the Prime Minister Narendra Modi yet. That is, if no credible political rival emerges from the shadows in the near future, a prospect which looks bleak.

The likes of Mamta Banerjee and Mayawati who once showed signs of shaping up into credible national rivals have too paled into significance. The caste based parties in Uttar Pradesh who were only hope to stop Modi juggernaut have bitten the dust. And they are unlikely to recover from the beating they took in polls after polls. Modi’s appeal has only grown stronger. He is now certain to win many more Assembly polls. The BJP under him has set itself up as a formidable challenger to Mamata Banerjee. While the broader opposition is reeling from the abject defeat, the BJP is busy setting up its base in the states where it lacks the presence like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. Things can still turn around for the opposition and also for India if the opposition too develops a potent narrative that offers a persuasive alternative to the one being plied by the BJP.

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