Bengal’s battle for ballot

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THE stage is set for the third phase of polling in West Bengal tomorrow. The state election has recorded a high turnout in the first two phases and the trend is expected to continue. Long after she ousted the Left Front, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee faces the toughest test of her political career against a determined BJP. Some of her key aides have been defecting from the TMC and there has been violence in the poll run-up and during polling, with the Election Commission cracking the whip to ensure a free and fair election.

Nandigram, from where Mamata is locked in a bitter fight against former aide Suvendu Adhikari, has seen a voter turnout that is higher than even the 2016 Assembly election. Mamata has complained that genuine voters are not being allowed to cast their votes and that the Central security forces are being partisan in their conduct. The CM, always at odds with the state Governor, even called him up to seek help. The CM has so far refused to contest from any other constituency, making it a do-or-die battle.

While the outcome of the eight-phase election will only be known on May 2, it will definitely mean poriborton or change for both major parties. For the TMC, it will mean having a relook at its priorities, as it faces allegations of crony capitalism, corruption and lack of development, coupled with reliance on doles. It will mean introspection for the BJP with its insistence on implementing the law on citizenship and its implications. Shorn of coalition partners nationally, the party has been facing resistance as it tries to make electoral inroads into states. The long election period may also give time to the inductees in the BJP to assess their prospects in the new dispensation with the party also deciding to field its sitting MPs in state polls.

Post elections, both the TMC and the BJP will have to figure out ways to work in a spirit of constructive cooperation for at stake are the concerns of the common man who votes parties to power.

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