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Potboiler polls begin in Assam, Bengal

The first phase of assembly elections spanning 47 seats in Assam and 30 in Bengal commences today amid projections of considerable anti-incumbency in both states. While TMC has felt the pressure ever since BJP’s strong showing in 2019’s Lok Sabha polls, a surprise has been the grand alliance in Assam which is attempting to prevent the splintering of anti-BJP votes. The first phase in Bengal kicks off predominantly from constituencies in the Jangalmahal region, where BJP had fared exceedingly well in 2019.

The Naxalite resurgence here had exemplified three decades of CPM failures, and TMC’s developmental works during its first term bolstered CM Banerjee’s popularity in the region. So BJP’s success in 2019, attributed to voter antipathy towards local TMC netas, would’ve come as a shock to her. Much could depend then on course correction, if any, by TMC since 2019. With BJP too making a strong developmental pitch, the choice between a national and regional party will play heavily on the voter’s mind. PM Modi’s ongoing visit to Dhaka, replete with crossborder signalling, adds spice to the Bengal potboiler.

In Assam, despite the eight-party opposition grand alliance, the first phase is riding almost entirely on Congress’s shoulders. A majority of the seats going to polls today are in north and upper Assam, a Congress stronghold until the BJP-AGP partnership won 35 of the 47 seats here in 2016. Congress is betting on a strong anti-CAA pitch in this phase, but the strains of this positioning are being felt by its Bengali Hindu leadership in the Barak Valley. Amid leveraging of Assam’s complex tapestry of identities and ambitious growth promises on all sides, voters have an intriguing choice to make. With both Assam and Bengal having multi-phased polls, parties will look to capture early momentum today.

 

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This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.



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