Many voters believe Mamata ought to be given more time

The final three phases of polling in West Bengal are all set for an exciting four-cornered contest with the BJP closing in on the Trinamool Congress’ traditional rivals — the Congress and Left Front.

In her public speeches Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been going hammer and tongs at the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi almost as much as she has attacked the CPI(M), indicating that the BJP has emerged as a powerful force. While the BJP polled 6.14% of the total votes in the State in the 2009 Lok Sabha election, share came down by two percentage points in the 2011 Assembly election.

Though the party’s share is expected to increase now, the significant question is which of the three main parties — the TMC, the CPI(M) or the Congress — will be most affected. Many in the BJP, and even in the TMC feel, that the ruling party in Bengal will be the worst affected, as it has the majority of the votes. However, the TMC may also cut into the share of both the Congress and CPI(M), thus counter-balancing the votes lost due to the BJP’s rise.

The Trinamool’s biggest worries stem from within. Ms. Banerjee has clearly sidelined two of her lieutenants — party general secretary Mukul Roy and MP Subhendu Adhikari. While Mr. Adhikari is mostly confined to his constituency in Tamluk, Mr. Roy lowered his profile reasonably. Ms. Banerjee is ensuring her complete control over the party even while challenging the party’s core leadership that she herself had nurtured.

“If these actors, singers or intellectuals win, it would establish that no one other than Didi [(Ms. Banerjee] is the supreme authority,” said Taimur Ali, a senior TMC leader in Balurghat.

The other challenges faced by the Trinamool come from the Election Commission (EC) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED). The CPI-M has repeatedly alleged that in large parts of the State, and mainly in South and North 24 Parganas (with nine Lok Sabha seats), the Trinamool resorted to “terror” to conduct the panchayat polls. If the EC manages to control the alleged violence, the Trinamool could be in for serious trouble in both the districts. Similarly, by pursuing the investigation into the Saradha ponzi scheme scam in Bengal, after the Supreme Court’s intervention, the ED is posing problems for the party. With polls coming up in districts, where the people invested massively in such schemes and senior party leaders have been implicated, the Trinamool faces a tough ride.

On the other hand, Ms. Banerjee has not committed any significant political blunder that may give some quarter to the Opposition. She has not acquired any land from farmers for industry, thus retaining her biggest vote base. She has not allowed global super-stores in multi-brand retail to enter the State, thus ensuring the support of millions of grocers. She has aligned herself with the minority community. While such an alignment may have eroded a fraction of the majority votes, she has ensured en bloc votes of the minority community. Moreover, her rivals are yet to put their house in order. Finally, she has ruled the State for a little over three years and many voters believe that the Trinamool ought to have more time before the party is dumped.

“That time has not come yet,” says a senior Left Front leader.