NEW DELHI: As regional parties from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra pledge their support to Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress in her fight against BJP, which has emerged as the main challenger to TMC in Bengal for the first time, the assembly election is turning into a Mamata versus (Narendra) Modi battle.
If this pitch is carried out through the campaign for the month-long eight-phased polling in the state, it could throw Banerjee straight into the national canvas if she wins her third term in office.
After Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Samajwadi Party, Shiv Sena on Thursday extended support to Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee saying the Maharashtra party will not contest for assembly polls in Bengal. Hailing Banerjee as the “real Bengal tigress,” the Maharashtra party, which had earlier said it would join the electoral battle in the state, vowed to “stand in solidarity” with TMC.
This “solidarity” also reflects a shift in alliances as SP, RJD and Sena are allies of Congress in their respective states – UP, Bihar and Maharashtra – but have decided to stand with TMC in Bengal, where Congress, Left parties and the Indian Secular Front (ISF) are contesting to defeat the ruling TMC as opposition forces in the state. A TMC victory in Bengal, could change alliance equations, with Banerjee emerging on the centre stage of national politics with an eye on the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
On Thursday, senior Sena leader MP Sanjay Raut, in a tweet, made the announcement and said that the decision to support TMC was taken following discussions with party president and CM Uddhav Thackeray. Raut took to Twitter saying, “at the moment, it appears to be a Didi vs All fight.”
“A lot of people are curious to know whether Shiv Sena is contesting West Bengal polls or not? So here’s the update after discussions with party president Uddhav ji Thackeray.”
“All ‘M’s – Money, Muscle and Media- are being used against ‘M’amata Didi. Hence, Shiv Sena has decided not to contest West Bengal polls & stand in solidarity with her. “We wish Mamata Didi a ‘roaring’ success, ‘cos we believe she is the real Bengal Tigress,” he added.
TMC spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Derek O Brien retweeted the tweet by Raut. “We welcome Shiv Sena’s decision. We are thankful to Shiv Sena for not putting up candidates in the assembly polls in West Bengal,” TMC MP Sougata Roy said, in Kolkata, reacting to the development.
Earlier this week RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav met Banerjee at her office and extended his support to the Trinamool Congress. SP leader and former UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav too has extended his party support to TMC. Both fought their respective last state elections in alliance with Congress. Sena heads the Maharashtra government in alliance with Congress and Sharad Pawar’s NCP.
While none of the parties have much electoral stakes in Bengal, with a good number of Hindi speaking voters in the state who hail from Bihar and UP, the regional leaders hope to influence them in favour of TMC. RJD has promised to campaign for TMC in Bengal, especially in areas bordering Bihar, where it recently finished as the single largest party.