Battle for Bengal

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STARTING his election campaign in West Bengal,  Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday launched a  scathing attack on the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC government in the state. He said while slogans like  Jai Shri Ram angered Banerjee, she didn’t say a word about “the international conspiracies to defame the nation”. This was the PM’s second visit to poll-bound states of Bengal and Assam in the last two elections. And this makes it clear that the BJP wants to leave no stone unturned to win the election in two states. More so, Bengal where the BJP wants to deny power to Banerjee and take over the state, which is one of the very few last remaining non-BJP bastions. And were this to happen, it will not only add to the growing political invincibility of the BJP under the leadership of PM Modi but will further reinforce the idea of India as envisaged by Sangh Parivar. And this will, as a result, further narrow the space for a secular politics as practiced by the likes of Banerjee.
As of now, the situation in Bengal offers no clear cut clues as to the potential victor. The past few weeks have witnessed many a bitter exchange between the TMC and the BJP.  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.

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