West Bengal is a home to diverse cultural/ethnic backgrounds and if this diversity is prominent in any of the phases, it is this phase where the electorates have sealed the fate candidates for the 56 assembly seats. Polling happened in Birbhum (11 seats), Darjeeling (6 seats), Alipurduar (5 seats), Jalpaiguri (7 seats), North Dinajpur (9 seats), South Dinajpur (6 seats) and Malda (12 seats). This phase could be extremely critical for TMC as it lacks organization in many of these districts that went to polls in this phase.
2011 Assembly Elections
In 2011 elections, there was a Mamata wave and it swept the entire Bengal. The alliance with Congress did exceptionally well with Congress becoming a senior partner in many districts of this phase unlike the rest of the Bengal. There were some issues in the seat sharing agreement between Congress & TMC in North Dinajpur and that saw Left picking up seats due to division of votes. Further, BJP which was till then non-existent also did well in some seats as given the fact that barring 4 seats where BJP lost its deposit in 2011 polls, 3 of them are in this phase (Mayureshwar, Madarihat and Habibpur). Further, the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha also remained a factor in the hills that tied up with BJP. INC & TMC won 18 seats each whereas Left could only win 15 seats. GJM won 3 and a candidate supported by GJM also won. One seat went to an independent. [Seat by seat winners have been presented in Table 1]
2014 Lok Sabha Elections
2014 Lok Sabha Elections witnessed Modi wave and this region also answered in an affirmative way to the same as compared to the rest of the regions. Modi factor coupled up with some strong local issues made BJP lead in 11 of the 56 assembly segments (Also BJP enjoyed GJM’s support) snatching a lot of seats from INC. TMC performed remarkably by taking a lead in as many as 23 assembly segments while INC’s lead tally reduced to just 11 and the remaining 11 had voted for Left Front. [Seat by seat winners have been presented in Table 1]
|Assembly||Winner 2011||Winner 2014|
|Kalchini (ST)||GJM supported IND||BJP|
2016 Assembly Elections
Election in Phase 2 is actually a personality driven elections. On one hand we have the TMC leader Anubrata Mondal in Birbhum and given his stature he can single handedly win all 11 seats for TMC but within this district there are pockets where he is losing his influence. For instance, take the case of Nanoor (The place that caught the headlines after the infamous Nanoor Massacre) where he is facing stiff challenge from within the party in the form of Sk Kajal who according to the ground reports has put his weight behind CPM or take the case of Dudh Kumar Mondal (BJP) contesting from Rampurhat who has also openly challenged Anubarata. Taking the example of Darjeeling district, it is the fiefdom of GJM who have tied up with BJP and also can dictate the outcome in several other seats in the neighboring Jalpaiguri & Alipurduar districts. Not to forget Harka Bahadur Chetri contesting from Kalimpong. Then there is Ashok Bhattacharya (CPM) who will be up against Bhaichung Bhutia of TMC. There are other two personalities as well who are influential in their own regions but very little known in rest of Bengal. Their performance in their respective seats could actually help BJP to open its account in this region and also affect the outcome at other seats. One of them is Manoj Tigga contesting from Madarihat. Despite Mamata wave in 2011, he became runners up behind the RSP candidate. Further, he also gathered a sizeable amount of votes in 2009 elections as well contesting from Alipurduar without any Modi wave. His presence was also instrumental in making BJP coming a close third in 2014 Lok Sabha. Second one is John Barla contesting from Nagrakata who is also the president of Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikash Parishad and is immensely popular among the tribal population here. Because of high concentration of tribal population and given the fact these tribes originally hail from Jharkhand, JMM also has a strong presence here and was polled in excess of 10% votes in at least 5 seats in 2011.
1. Restoration of peace in the Hills
One of the major pre-poll promises of Mamata during her 2011 campaign was restoration of peace in the hills along with restoration of peace in Jangalmahal. She has largely fulfilled this promise with the setting up of a body called Gorkha Territorial Administration with larger autonomy.
2. Issue of Tea Gardens and Tea Workers in Dooars
There is nothing hidden about the plight of tea workers of Dooars. Most of the tea estates here have gone busted and there is a widespread poverty among the plantation workers coupled with starvation leading to malnourishment. This issue still bothers the people here and hardly anything has been done in this regard with the exception of recent nationalization of tea estates once owned by Duncan Industries thus saving the jobs of 15000 workers.
3. Welfare Schemes
[Same as Phase 1 (a) & (b)]
4. Recent Violence in Malda
The beginning of the year saw a recent violence in Malda when a gathering protesting against Kamlesh Tiwary’s remarks turned violent. This incident, even though, was not a widespread one could polarize the voters.
The transfer of votes between Left and Congress could be a deciding factor. BJP that got huge support in LS 2014, might not be repeat the same performance, it will decisive to which way these votes swing.
This phase undoubtedly goes to the Left-Congress alliance and there could be a near sweep for them. BJP in alliance with GJP could also make some in roads and is in a great position to snatch at least 2 seats for them. TMC will be routed. Possible outcome could be: TMC: 10-12, Alliance: 27-31, BJP: 2-5, GJM: 3, Too Close to Call- 11