When votes swing in Bengal, they swing big. The CPI(M)’s tally oscillated from 14 in the rigging-marred 1972 assembly elections to 178 in 1977, and from 176 in 2006 to 40 in 2011. The TMC, which bagged 30 assembly seats in 2006, won 184 in 2011; it bagged one Lok Sabha seat in 2004, 19 in 2009 and 34 in 2014. The BJP, whose tally rose from two in the 2014 Lok Sabha election to 18 in 2019, saw its voteshare at Kaliaganj dip from 52.15 per cent in the Lok Sabha election in May 2019 to 43.54 per cent in the assembly bypolls in November. Similarly, in Kharagpur, its voteshare fell from 57.23 per cent to 34.01 per cent. TMC won the two seats for the first time—in Kaliaganj, its voteshare went up from 27.25 per cent in the Lok Sabha polls to 44.65 per cent in the assembly bypolls, and from 29.58 per cent to 47.65 per cent in Kharagpur. This situation has left BJP and TMC leaders clueless about the probable outcome of the assembly polls this time, prompting both parties to focus on creating polarisations.
“Goons from Uttar Pradesh donning saffron clothes and chewing Pan Bahar are being sent here, and they are destroying our culture,” CM Mamata Banerjee told an election rally at Bishnupur in Bankura district on March 25. This came a month after her nephew and the TMC’s youth wing chief, Abhishek Banerjee, told a rally at Dholahaat in South 24-Parganas that “Uttar Pradesh’s gutkha spits would not rust Bengal’s iron”. The BJP’s Bengal president Dilip Ghosh alleged that the TMC chief had made a habit of insulting Hindus and all that Hindus respected. Meanwhile, the BJP and other RSS-affiliated organisations have intensified their campaign against “rising jehadi influence” in Bengal. “The coming assembly election is a battle to save our land,” Dilip Ghosh tweeted on February 27. “Illegal infiltration (of Muslims from Bangladesh) and the unchecked birth rate is changing the demography in the bordering areas. Jehadi activities are rising in tandem. Baduria, Basirhat and Kaliachak stand witness to it.”