West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee during an election roadshow rally in Kolkata (PTI file)
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee during an election roadshow rally in Kolkata (PTI file)

Battle hots up for West Bengal as parties race for last-minute campaigns

  • PM Narendra Modi is set to address a rally in Dum Dum area later, while chief minister Mamata Banerjee is in the middle of addressing public gatherings
  • On 19 May, the seats of Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat and Joynagar, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Kolkata North and South will go to polls

Kolkata: Just a day after the Election Commission (EC) curtailed political campaigning in West Bengal by a day, political parties are now scrambling to make a final attempt at public outreach, before the state votes in the final phase of the ongoing Lok Sabha elections on 19 May.

While the campaigning process in the state has been marred by violence outbreaks between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Trinamool Congress (TMC), both parties are now going neck and neck to grab eyeballs in the state.

The electorate however, is unenthused about the goings on in the state and the mudslinging that West Bengal has witnessed this week.

“What kind of politics is this? We go out to vote because we have to. But who is even worthy of being voted for? A chief minister and a prime minister are fighting like school children. Nobody is even talking of the people, even though Mamata Banerjee has been talking about a government for the people," said Anjan Saha, who runs a business in Kolkata’s Gariahat area.

On one hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to address a rally in Kolkata’s Dum Dum area later in the evening, while state chief minister Mamata Banerjee is in the thick of addressing public gatherings and roadshows in the city.

While West Bengal remains on the edge following violence between the two parties over the last two days, during which BJP president Amit Shah’s rally in the state cane under attack and social reformer Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s statue was vandalised, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a rally in Uttar Pradesh on Thursday said, “During Amit Shah's rally the day before yesterday, TMC goons vandalised Vidyasagar's statue. We will build a new statue there and give a befitting reply to Mamata Banerjee."

The people, however, have moved past the incident and are still waiting for something more significant to come their way.

The contest, however, may well be a close one between the TMC and the BJP, while the Left has been cast aside.

“People were angry about the incident (Vidyasagar) for a day and then they forgot about it. The TMC knows its chances look bleak this time and so it is trying every tactic in the book to get ahead," said Romesh Mullick, a daily wage labourer.

Like Mullick, scores of other workers from the lower economic strata are now looking at the BJP for upliftment.

“We have heard about the Awaas and Ujjwala yojanas, but because of political conditions in the state, it has not reached us. Maybe if there is some change in the state, we will get the benefits too," according to Jayanta Nath, a local tea seller in Kolkata’s Park Circus area.

On 19 May, the seats of Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat and Joynagar, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Kolkata North and South will go to polls in the seventh phase.

Mamata Banerjee, while slamming the BJP and the EC said on Thursday, “Thanks and gratitude to Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav and the Congress Party for expressing solidarity and support to us and the people of Bengal. EC's biased actions under the directions of the BJP are a direct attack on democracy. People will give a befitting reply."

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