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Sarada Lahangir

Will the myth of Muslim vote bank break in West Bengal's electoral politics? Will the trend of voters from Dalit or Adivasi communities decide the fate of political parties? Or a new equation will destroy all the perceived trends? Many new equations are emerging in the electoral arena of Bengal politics and political parties are trying every calculation for a sway in their favour.

It is worth noting that the number of Muslim voters in the state is around 30 per cent. Dalit and tribal communities too constitute about 30 per cent of the total electorates in Bengal. According to estimates, tribals constitute about 5.8 percent of the state's population, while the Dalit population is around 24 percent.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a public meeting in tribal dominated Purulia district on Thursday. The state has 16 assembly seats reserved for tribals, whereas Dalits have a good influence in 68 assembly seats in Bengal. These communities are very special for every political party.

The Congress-Left is putting a joint effort to woo Muslim voters. The Indian Secular Front-ISF has an alliance with the Congress-Left. The BJP and the Trinamool Congress are alleging that the newly formed political alliance is resorting to playing minority card. However, the Trinamool perhaps believes that there will probably be no disintegration of Muslim opinion in Bengal after the experience of Bihar.

The Muslim vote for the BJP has not been traditional. In such a situation, the party is focusing more on both the tribal and Dalit communities and several rallies and road shows are being organized one after the other. The tribal population in Bengal are scattered in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar, Dakshin Dinajpur, West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia. In Purulia itself, the BJP is focusing more. Meeting of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Prime Minister Narendra Modi have also taken place here.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the community stood with the BJP and it is believed that due to this, the BJP achieved great success here and won 18 out of 42 seats. When a party wins an election with an increased vote share (the BJP’s vote share in 2019 increased from 31.1% to 37.4%), it usually gains votes across the board. Yet, an analysis of the National Election Studies 2019, a post-poll survey conducted by Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies immediately after polling in each phase of the election, reveals that the BJP made disproportionate gains largely among groups where it has traditionally lacked support. More than one-third (34%) Dalits voted for the BJP in 2019 as compared to around one-fourth (24%) in 2014. In Bengal Dalit votes have shifted substantially from the TMC to the BJP by 2019. it appears that the bulk of the Dalit vote, previously with the Left and the Congress, has also shifted to the BJP. In Bengal 81 of the 294 Assembly seats are reserved for SC and ST candidates.

At present, the Trinamool claims to be very much with these communities. Experts say that the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections are held in different ways. But the way the BJP is contesting the election as a big force; many new equations are emerging over the outcome of the political battle.

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