The success of this model will, however, depend on how these chief ministers ensure the delivery of goods that do not just comprise doles but charter economic growth and welfare of the people.
Even if some have started writing off the BJP in Bengal politics, the ruling party at the Centre isn’t going to give a walkover to the ruling Trinamool in the 2016 Bengal assembly polls. The party will make a desperate bid to reach closer to its 17% vote share in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls with religious polarization as one of its planks. But this might only help Mamata Banerjee consolidate the minority vote bank as it did in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Mamata’s vitriolic attack against Narendra Modi during the Lok Sabha campaign made her emerge as a saviour of minorities.
What’s more is that the BJP’s hope of improving its numbers in the Rajya Sabha has fallen through in the Bihar elections. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has to bank on Mamata for safe passage of the crucial reforms Bills as he did earlier. Mamata, on the other hand, will try to extract the maximum for the state in lieu of providing support to the Centre. However, Mamata may not go for the quid pro quo for months till the 2016 assembly polls lest the Opposition takes advantage of the “Modi-Mamata chemistry”.
Yet, Mamata has her problems, too. In the last four years of her governance, her party is bitten by the same intolerance bug for which she has criticized the BJP. The intolerance here in Bengal is not religious, it’s political intolerance. It was on display in the last civic polls when the Bihar polls turned out to be free and fair. Squabbles and clashes within the Trinamool are a regular during this regime. The party in its bid to establish hegemony has muzzled the dissenting voice and also used muscle power to influence voting. All these have created disenchantment among the urban voters caught in an economic stagnation.
Despite this, the opposition parties in Bengal are yet to come up as a credible alternative, in terms of policies and presence. The BJP has become weaker, the Congress and the Left marginalized to north Bengal. On the contrary, Trinamool has made impressive dents in Adhir Chowdhury’s domain in Murshidabad and Congress dominated Malda. The party has improved its vote share by 13% in the last civic polls, leaving behind the Left. The Left’s silver lining is Siliguri and the adjoining areas.
The success of the grand alliance in Bihar came as a relief to the Left who were afraid of getting sandwiched in the polarization politics if the BJP had its way in Bihar. The grand alliance will also make voices within Bengal CPM to look for allies beyond the Left. Some of them are also in favour of working in tandem with Congress. Whatever the tactic, the main handicap for the Left is that people are to get over negatives of the 34 years of Left rule in Bengal. Its leaders are still running after day-to-day issues without being able to provide a credible policy alternative, different from the mainstream parties.